Steve the robot cop says he didn't see a 'no swimming' sign before impromptu dip

steve robot cop may work again k5 shrine
Knightscope
Steve the autonomous security robot made international headlines earlier this week after he accidentally toppled into a fountain while on duty at the Washington Harbour complex in Washington, D.C.

Left submerged and useless after water flooded his vital components (which is what tends to happen when land-based robots come into contact with liquids), a severely sodden Steve was hauled from the pool and returned to his maker for checks.

The company, a Silicon Valley-based outfit called Knightscope, has been developing its 6-foot, 400-pound “K5” robot cop since 2013. Clearly there is still work to be done.

When functioning properly, the sensor- and camera-equipped K5 works alongside human security personnel and is programmed to spot suspicious characters or behavior. But Steve was only a week into his first shift when he took an impromptu dip.

Knightscope said that a preliminary review of the data “suggests no foul play” — in other words, no one pushed Steve into the water. Although the company is currently trying to work out why Steve ended up in the fountain, it’s also been able to find time to smile about the embarrassing accident. On Thursday, it issued a news release revealing that Steve is in a “critical condition” and “on life support” at its headquarters, adding that another K5 will be taking Steve’s place at Washington Harbour following the “unauthorized and unscheduled submarine trials.”

‘Greatly exaggerated’

“The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated,” Steve apparently said upon reboot. “I don’t remember seeing a ‘no swimming’ sign. Thank you to all the human life guards that pulled me out.”

Evidently one not to miss a marketing opportunity, Knightscope has set up a Twitter account for Steve — it’s called @K5steveisalive — so his newfound fans can receive updates on his recovery. It also released a photo (above) showing another K5 standing forlornly, if robots can stand forlornly, at a memorial for Steve. Even though he’s not dead yet.

While Steve’s mishap has certainly generated a few laughs among those who’ve been following the story, the unfortunate incident also highlights the challenges facing those companies engaged in the development of autonomous robots. Huge improvements have been made in recent years, and every malfunction, like Steve’s, can provide engineers with a trove of valuable data that’ll help push their technology to perfection. Eventually.

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