Public Safety Robots

April 3, 2014
What could a futuristic robot L.E. officer actually look like?

Warning - Spoilers. I waited to talk about this a few nights. Perhaps you are a fan of SyFy channel's Face Off special effects show as much as I am and I didn't want to spoil the episode.

Face Off (not the movie with Travolta and Cage) pits movie special effects artists to win a grand prize: cash, car, supplies, notoriety, etc. Each week contestants are challenged to create an original costume or an actor, if you will, completely painted and "camera-ready." To them it means their character should be a-OK to be put on set and filmed. Each week has a winner and loser. The latter is sent home. In the end, the show's just plain fun to watch. This April 2nd episode had the artists create a robot to replace a human workers job. Police work was mysteriously not a choice. While this is a law enforcement site, I hope we all can share the appreciation of it ... and maybe have a little fun.

One of the show's "robots" included some great ideas - borderline "concept art" if you will. A water cannon came out the back and up over its shoulder, air vents to purify the smoke (the artist says that clean air would come out the back), multiple lenses to see what us humans wouldn't be able to without extra equipment, what looks to be a battering ram and more. What struck me was the detail, the embellishments. It was given a yellow highlight, aged red to infer he's been though quite a few calls, and an awe-inspiring wing collar. The show is based in LA - the artist popped on "FDLA." It may be an avatar. It may run autonomously. (They didn't ask that question.)  

One can only guess they didn't include law enforcement because of the already mainstream character. Its also different. The one you're thinking of would be part human (I understand the movie also included "non-human" officers - but those didn't get a movie now did they). Face Off's character here was meant to be replacing a person, not augmenting one.

Let's have some fun. What would a law enforcement robot like this look like? What "tools" would it utilize? Does it run autonomously? The rules are thrown out the window. Straight away I'm going with bullet resistant materials, but maybe there's an absorption covering or magnetic field to reduce ricochet. If a firearm is necessary how about (instead of the delay of grabbing it from a shin) its embedded in an arm with various calibers and to use. This would provide a less lethal option and up to long range. Officers are already wearing cameras, how much would this robot of ours record? Is there an action trigger?

We're not talking perfect practicality here - just having some fun. In my opinion a robot would never be able to replace any person's public safety position - ever. While this blog discusses technology, there are factors that require a human to think about. Even if a computer could replace the human factor would the majority prefer it? Currently, autonomous or not, robots are tools. That only begins to change once they start to replace someone.

What do you think? Of the many jobs an officer can do does on a daily basis as well as the rare and infrequent, what features of this fictional robot of ours have?

About the Author

Jonathan Kozlowski

Jonathan Kozlowski was with Officer.com, Law Enforcement Technology, and Law Enforcement Product News from August 2006 to 2020.

As former Managing Editor for Officer Media Group, he brought a dedicated focus to the production of the print publications and management of the Officer.com online product and company directory. You can connect with Jonathan through LinkedIn.

Jonathan participated as a judge for the 2019 and 2020 FOLIO: Eddie & Ozzie Awards. In 2012, he received an APEX Award of Excellence in the Technology & Science Writing category for his article on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in police work, aptly titled "No Runway Needed".

He typically does not speak in the third person.

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