Source: James Vincent


Robots might be cheaper to employ than humans, but it seems they still need to work on their people skills. Last week, a robot security guard at the Stanford Shopping Center in Silicon Valley knocked down a toddler while on duty and then apparently just kept on driving. A report from local news channel ABC7 says the bot hit 16-month-old Harwin Cheng, knocking him to the floor.

Cheng was not seriously hurt by the incident, but we’re still going to chalk this up as a violation of Isaac Asimov’s first law of robotics: “A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.” Here’s ABC7’s story:

It amuses shoppers of all ages, but last Thursday, 16-month-old Harwin Cheng had a frightening collision with the robot. “The robot hit my son’s head and he fell down facing down on the floor and the robot did not stop and it kept moving forward,” Harwin’s mom Tiffany Teng said.

Harwin’s parents say the robot ran over his right foot, causing it to swell, but luckily the child didn’t suffer any broken bones. Harwin also got a scrape on his leg from the incident. “He was crying like crazy and he never cries. He seldom cries,” Teng said.

The robot in question was the Knightscope K5, a five-foot, 300-pound machine that began trials in the mall last year. The robot trundles about on wheels and uses an array of sensors and cameras to monitor its environment. Human security guards can direct it to certain locations to see what’s going on, and the bot is supposed to report any unusual activity to a central guard station. The robot’s creators describe it as possessing a “commanding physical presence” combined with “advanced technology.”

The k5 costs just $6.25 an hour to employ — less than minimum wage

It’s not clear exactly what happened with Harwin Cheng, and Knightscope has yet to issue any statement on the matter or respond to requests for comment from The Verge. And while it seems the incident with Cheng was minor, Knightscope obviously wouldn’t want something like this to happen again. Even though the K5 only costs $6.25 an hour to employ (that’s lower than minimum wage), no-one’s going to hire a robot that runs into children.