Robot workers are showing up in malls, hotels, and parking lots

mit robots stores hotels parking lots knightscope k5 security robot 900x600
If you have yet to see a robot patrolling a parking lot or moving along the sidewalk, don’t feel left out. Security, surveillance, hospitality, and delivery robots aren’t a common sight, but it won’t be long before they are. Robots are already on the job providing extra service and security in a growing variety and number of locations, according to the  MIT Technology Review.

Silicon Valley startup Knightscope, Inc. has two mobile surveillance and security robots, called the K3 and K5. The company refers to them as Autonomous Data Machines, or ADMs, because as the robots make their rounds, they can either follow prescribed paths or just wander within a determined area. While on the move, the robots continuously collect and transmit more than 90 terabytes of data per year.

Knightscope maintains a security center to monitor and receive alerts and status reports from the robots and, over time, a growing database of information collected by sensors will help the robots differentiate between normal activity and security issues. The robots are physically imposing, especially the K5 model, which is 5 feet tall, 3 feet wide, and tips the scale at 300 pounds.

Savioke is another Silicon Valley company in the robotics business. Savioke’s Relay, also called the Botlr, is designed for service use in hotels. The primary Botlr application is to make deliveries to guests. The Botlr starts off at a designated charging station. When hotel staff get a call for convenience or snack items, for example, they enter a code to open the Botlr’s top compartment, enter the room number, and the robot travels on its own to deliver the items to the specified room. The Botlr can also deliver small packages. According to Savioke, Botlrs are currently in service in eight hotels.

Starship Technologies, an Estonia company with an office in London, makes six-wheeled urban delivery robots that resemble canister vacuums or the kind of cooler you might take to the beach. According to the MIT Technology Review, Starship robots have already traveled more than 3,200 miles in Arkansas, London, Estonia, and the San Francisco Bay Area. The Starship has 9 cameras that help it navigate along sidewalks. A lockable storage compartment is accessed ahead of time by the recipient with a code sent via text message.

Target Stores are also trying robots, in this case for taking store inventory. San Francisco startup Simbe Robotics builds the Tally, described as an automated shelf auditing and analytics solution. The Tally, which looks like a tall space heater or high-end audio speaker, rolls up and down store aisles. According to Simbe, the bot can complete an inventory of the shelves in a medium-sized store in about 30 minutes with 95 percent accuracy. The company says the same inventory would take humans about 25 hours with only a 65 percent accuracy rate. The Tally can also report all misplaced merchandise so store personnel can retrieve and re-shelve it properly.

As robots become more common, their successful co-existence with humans will depend on their appearance and behavior. The ability to navigate inert and moving objects autonomously and safely is a huge first step.

The way robots appear is often determined by the application. A roving security robot can look imposing, while an inventory machine needs to be unobstrusive as it shares aisles with shoppers. A delivery robot, whether traveling to your hotel room, home, or place of business, has to be a convenient size for you to retrieve the contents.

That robots may someday replace humans entirely in these jobs is another issue, but one that is already an emerging reality with the machines in the MIT Technology Review study.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Grow veggies indoors and shower more efficiently

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Movies & TV

'Prime'-time TV: Here are the best shows on Amazon Prime right now

There's more to Amazon Prime than free two-day shipping, including access to a number of phenomenal shows at no extra cost. To make the sifting easier, here are our favorite shows currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
Movies & TV

Stay inside this winter with the best shows on Hulu, including 'Legion'

It's often overwhelming to navigate Hulu's robust library of TV shows. To help, we put together a list of the best shows on Hulu, whether you're into frenetic cartoons, intelligent dramas, or anything in between.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix, from 'Haunting of Hill House’ to ‘Norsemen’

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Emerging Tech

Ant-inspired walking robot navigates without GPS by using polarized light

What do you get if you cross Boston Dynamics and Ant-Man? You get Antbot, a robot from the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) which uses ant-like navigation to move around without the aid of GPS.
Emerging Tech

InSight’s heat probe will dig 16 feet beneath the surface of Mars

New images from NASA's InSight mission to Mars have confirmed that the lander succeeded in setting the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package instrument onto the surface, from where a self-hammering spike will burrow downwards.
Emerging Tech

White spots on Ceres are evidence of ancient ice volcanoes erupting

Scientists are pouring over data collected by NASA's Dawn mission to learn about the dwarf planet Ceres and the bright white spots observed at the bottom of impact craters. They believe that these spots are evidence of ice volcanoes.
Emerging Tech

NASA to launch SPHEREx mission to investigate the origins of our universe

NASA is launching an ambitious mission to map the entire sky to understand the origins of the universe. The Spectro-Photometer for the History of the Universe, Epoch of Reionization and Ices Explorer (SPHEREx) mission will launch in 2023.
Emerging Tech

Probes exploring Earth’s hazardous radiation belts enter final phase of life

The Van Allen probes have been exploring the radiation belts around Earth for seven years. Now the probes are moving into the final phase of their exploration, coming closer to Earth to gather more data before burning up in the atmosphere.
Emerging Tech

How can digital art created on obsolete platforms be preserved?

As the lines between art and technology continue to blur, digital art experiences become more commonplace. But these developments are raising an important question for art conservationists: How should digital artworks be preserved?
Emerging Tech

Statistician raises red flag about reliability of machine learning techniques

Machine learning is everywhere in science and technology. But how reliable are these techniques really? A statistician argues that questions of accuracy and reproducibility of machine learning have not been fully addressed.
Emerging Tech

Chandra X-ray telescope uncovers evidence of the universe’s missing matter

Where is all of the matter in the universe? NASA's Chandra telescope has uncovered evidence of hot gas strands in the vicinity of a quasar which could explain the missing third of matter which has puzzled astronomers for years.
Emerging Tech

Wish you could fly? You totally can with these top-of-the-line drones

In just the past few years, drones have transformed from a geeky hobbyist affair to a full-on cultural phenomenon. Here's a no-nonsense rundown of the best drones you can buy right now, no matter what kind of flying you plan to do.
Emerging Tech

Here’s how Facebook taught its Portal A.I. to think like a Hollywood filmmaker

When Facebook introduced its Portal screen-enhanced smart speakers, it wanted to find a way to make video chat as intimate as sitting down for a conversation with a friend. Here's how it did it.