TECH UP­DATES

Sui­ci­dal se­cu­rity ro­bot meets wa­tery end while drones boost crop cir­cles

Fortean Times - - Strange Days -

RO­BOT ‘DROWNS’

A se­cu­rity ro­bot in Wash­ing­ton DC suf­fered a wa­tery demise af­ter rolling into a foun­tain and ‘drown­ing’ by an of­fice build­ing at the Ge­orge­town Wa­ter­front in Wash­ing­ton (DC) Har­bour. The stricken ro­bot, made by Knightscope, was spot­ted by passers-by whose pho­tos of the af­ter­math quickly went vi­ral on so­cial me­dia. For some, the in­ci­dent seemed to sum up the state of 21st cen­tury tech­nol­ogy. “We were promised fly­ing cars, in­stead we got sui­ci­dal robots,” wrote one worker from the build­ing on Twit­ter. “Steps are our best de­fence against the Robopoca­lypse,” com­mented Peter Singer – au­thor of Wired

for War, a book about mil­i­tary ro­bot­ics.

It is not the first ac­ci­dent in­volv­ing Knightscope’s pa­trolling robots, which are equipped with var­i­ous in­stru­ments – in­clud­ing face-recog­ni­tion sys­tems, high-def­i­ni­tion video cap­ture, in­frared and ul­tra­sonic sen­sors. Last year, a 16-month-old tod­dler was run over by one of the au­ton­o­mous de­vices in a Sil­i­con Val­ley shop­ping cen­tre. And ear­lier this year, a Cal­i­for­nian man was ar­rested af­ter at­tack­ing a Knightscope ro­bot. The man, who was drunk at the time of the in­ci­dent, later said he wanted to “test” the ma­chine, ac­cord­ing to Knightscope. BBC News, in­ews.co.uk, 18 July 2017.

DRONES BOOST CROP CIR­CLES

A re­cent surge in crop cir­cles is be­ing caused by drone users who up­load their aerial footage on so­cial me­dia, ac­cord­ing to Wilt­shire Po­lice. So far this year the force had been alerted to 16 in­ci­dents, with a re­cent cir­cle in Al­ton Barnes mea­sur­ing 200 acres (sic) in di­am­e­ter. How­ever, the true num­ber is thought to be far higher be­cause many farm­ers do not come for­ward.

“Cre­at­ing a crop cir­cle is crim­i­nal dam­age and an of­fence,” said ru­ral crime of­fi­cer Marc Jack­son. “Of­ten im­me­di­ately af­ter a crop cir­cle ap­pears, peo­ple will ar­rive with a drone to pho­to­graph it. In­di­vid­u­als us­ing a drone in the im­me­di­ate time af­ter a crop cir­cle may be con­nected to the group who have cre­ated the cir­cle. The footage is quickly cir­cu­lated on so­cial me­dia to gen­er­ate in­ter­est and on web­sites that charge for ad­ver­tis­ing space. It has also been known for in­di­vid­u­als to pose as part of a char­ity or as the landowner at the site of crop cir­cles and at­tempt to take ‘do­na­tions’ from peo­ple view­ing it.” PC Jack­son added that the dam­age re­sults in a sig­nif­i­cant loss of rev­enue for farm­ers, who are also forced to deal with tres­passers who later flock to view them.

Drone users are sup­posed to ob­tain per­mis­sion from the Civil Avi­a­tion Author­ity to op­er­ate drones for com­mer­cial pur­poses. The CAA said that per­mis­sion had been granted to 2,897 op­er­a­tors to use drone for com­mer­cial pur­poses, al­most a six-fold in­crease from about 500 just two years ago. D. Tele­graph, 13 July; Times, 14 July 2017.

ABOVE AND LEFT: The Ge­orge­town Wa­ter­front ro­bot’s sad end quickly gave rise to a spon­ta­neous memo­rial.

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