The end may be getting nigh – a Chinese university has developed a high-tech security robot that has a worrying resemblance to the Daleks from Doctor Who.
AnBot is the brainchild of the National University of Defence Technology (NUDT) in Changsha, China, and is designed to aid police and law enforcement agencies in public to deal with potential terrorism and riot situations. The black and white robot is 1.49m, has a half-oval shape, weighs 78kg, measures 0.8m in diameter and moves around on a wheeled base.
The robot comes with sensors that can detect smoke, explosives, chemical/biological weapons and a rise in temperature, as well as a 360-degree HD camera, in order to mimic the five human senses. It has a big enough battery to let it work continuously for eight hours, either patrolling at the speed of 1km per hour, or racing along at a maximum speed of 18km per hour.
Besides autonomously patrolling and navigating streets while observing the actions of citizens going about their daily lives, AnBot also comes with the ability to analyse video to search for potential problems such as knives and guns. If it sees or detects anything suspicious, it immediately alerts mission control, which can review the robot's live video feed streaming wirelessly back to headquarters.
Civilians can call for help by pressing the SOS button on the robot's body to contact the police, and in a civil unrest situation mission control can remotely deploy AnBot's electrically charged riot control tool to control crowds – a fact that deeply alarms NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, who tweeted sarcastically about the news:
The rising trend in robots on wheeled bases
AnBot was unveiled at the 12th Chongqing Hi-Tech Fair on 12 April. According to Chinese tech site IT168, during the press conference NUDT's robotics researchers said that it took only four months to develop the robot, from concept to prototype.
The researchers say that the robot is designed to be used to patrol airports, train stations, shopping malls, hotels, banks, government buildings, warehouses and port facilities.
AnBot is similar to the K5 security robot developed by California-based company Knightscope, except that K5 doesn't have a Dalek-like electrically charged tool. However, it is particularly interesting to see that AnBot, K5 and Softbank's robot companion Pepper all bear one thing in common – none have bipedal legs.
Colin Angle, the CEO of iRobot, a Massachusetts-based robotics company that is known for its Roomba vacuum cleaners, told IBTimes UK in March 2014 that it is highly unlikely that mankind would end up with many humanoid robots with legs as the technology is too difficult and expensive to produce.
Two years later, he seems to have been proven right. Apart from Honda's Asimo and Boston Dynamics' Atlas, no other major company has brought out a bipedal robot – the only bipedal or humanoid robots currently are being developed for research by academic institutions, and Google recently announced its intention to sell Boston Dynamics as it doesn't see the company having a marketable product any time soon.