Robo-cop on the beat

THIS MAY read like an excerpt from a science fiction novel, or even the 1987 movie Robocop in which a cyborg, or humanoid ‘policeman’ returns to rid crime-infested Detroit of the scum of the earth.

Dubai is no Detroit from Hollywood, but their futures will intersect when robo-cops patrol the streets of this city.

If you’ve watched the original Robocop starring Peter Weller, it won’t be hard to imagine a day when policing passes to a posse of robots who walk the streets and malls in Dubai and follow a set of commands to keep the peace, watch the surroundings and help catch the bad guys. 

So successful was the first Robocop movie that a second was made which didn’t fare too well.  It took almost a generation for a remake of the original to be released in 2014, which again met with lukewarm response from critics and the masses alike. According to a report in the Khaleej Times, this revolution in law enforcement is expected to happen before Dubai hosts the Expo in 2020 when the city expects an influx of people.

People will have fun dealing with the robots of the police force, officials said. The machines will interact directly with people and tourists. An interactive screen for a face and a microphone will transmit and receive commands from the Dubai Police call centres. The robots will be further developed to take decisions on their own without help from human controllers, according to police officials, who said they are investing in research to make the bots more effective for patrol duties. Dubai Police hope to replace more men and women on the force with these robots, and bring down the costs of policing.

Knightscope, a Silicon Valley company, has already developed a version of the robo-cop, which can detect and track criminal activity. But a weaponised robo-cop has raked up controversy, with many experts warning they could turn rogue if not used wisely.

Dubai’s own robo-cops could be equipped with sensors for thermal imaging, they could read your vehicle’s licence plate and scan your facial features. How far authorities would go with a robot police force without intruding into your personal space is an issue open to debate. 

But if you’re not averse to trading your privacy for the security and safety of the community, robo-cops could well be the future of modern policing.  

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