Tech

Singapore is using robots to detect bad behavior among the public

In a nutshell: Singapore has turned to robots in a bid to deter lawbreakers in the city-state. But before you have visions of Robocop marching around the streets declaring, “Come quietly, or there will be… trouble,” know that these machines are less gun-wielding cyborg and more Wall-E.

Reuters reports that Singapore has started testing a couple of robots, called Xavier, on patrols in areas with high foot traffic.

Rather than being on hand to prevent violent crimes—Singapore is ranked as one of the safest countries in the world—they will be on the lookout for “undesirable social behaviors.” These include flouting Covid-19 safety measures (such as “the congregation of more than five people”), smoking in prohibited areas, improper parking of bicycles, and illegal hawking.

The robots are equipped with 360-degree IR and low-light cameras that detect this antisocial behavior. If the AI system identifies any of the prohibited activities, the command and control center is alerted.

The robots are also fitted with an array of sensors that help them navigate the city autonomously, avoiding objects, pedestrians, and vehicles, hopefully. They will also be showing messages on their screens to educate the public on proper behavior, which will doubtlessly help endear them to the average person.

A spokesperson for Singapore’s Home Team Science and Technology Agency said the robots would not be used for law enforcement during the trial. “The deployment of Xavier will support the work of public officers as it will reduce the manpower required for foot patrols and improve operation efficiency,” the agency said.

Singapore plans to double its number of surveillance cameras to 200,000 by the time 2030 rolls around, not including those on the robots, presumably.

We’ve seen similar surveillance/security robots in the US, several of which have been attacked and pushed over. One of them even dove into a fountain—the pressures of the job becoming too much, perhaps.

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