Last November we got our first look at ETRI’s new robot security guard, and we were quick to pan its bright colors and cutesy design. Apparently we weren’t alone as the robot was given a tougher look when it was actually deployed in a South Korean prison earlier this month. The so-called “behavior detection” software supposedly detects abnormal prisoner behavior including suicide, assault, and arson. I don’t question that its sensors can detect a fire, but I do wonder if the software can differentiate between a warm hug and a shanking.
A human operator can remotely access the robot’s video feed and intervene if necessary, but I think I’d feel safer with them being in closer proximity. Of course, I doubt anyone is going to be too upset if prisoners aren’t getting the highest quality protection, which is probably what they’re banking on. And I’m sure plenty of private prisons in the U.S. will be interested in it if it saves them some money.
I don’t have a problem with security robots like this that are meant to protect property, but when human lives are at stake it seems to me that we should admit when the technology isn’t up to the task.