A wise man once asked, “They can put a man on the moon, but they can’t make killer robot police?” Actually, I think it was The Onion. Regardless, the answer to the question question has come to haunt the residents of a downtown Atlanta neighborhood. As ABCNews.com reports, Rufus Terrill, 57, owner of O’Terrill’s pub, has been using a “300-pound, waist-high robot, marked ‘SECURITY'” to guard his business against loiterers, the homeless and thieves.
“They’re out here to get money for drugs, to get money from breaking into cars,” Terrill says. “These are bad guys.”
But many residents don’t see it in such black and white terms, or believe Terrill’s motives are so vigilant.
From the article:
The Bum Bot’s reputation, it seems, has preceded it.
The electronic vigilante — on the beat since September — has enraged neighborhood activists, who have threatened protests. Street people say it’s intimidating. And homeless advocates question the intentions of its inventor, who uses the Bum Bot as a marketing tool and a political prop.
Terrill, a 57-year-old ex-Marine, asserts his motives are pure: He says more police now patrol the area at night, the park across the street feels safer and he’s had no break-ins since the cube-shaped robot, which Terrill controls with a wireless remote, has roamed the area. To Henrik Christensen, director of Georgia Tech‘s Robotics and Intelligent Machines Center, the Bum Bot exploits the kind of anxiety that underlies the Terminator movies.
“We have a Hollywood picture that they’re going to run amok, kill people and do bad things. This Bum Bot plays on that stereotype,” Christensen says. “For the rest of us who want to use technology to assist people in their daily lives, it’s an obstacle.”
However, crime does seem to be rampant in Terrill’s neighborhood, with break-ins common. And this one’s still controlled by remote. It’s when they gain self-consciousness (and opposable thumbs) that we have a problem.