A Chinese firm has designed and are offering for sale a new security robot. Called Anbot, it joins dozens of earlier, similar designs and apparently tries to learn from and improve earlier efforts. Anbot weighs 78 kg (172 pounds) is cylindrical and 1.5 meters (4.9 feet) high. It can operate eight hours on its internal batteries and automatically use a recharging station if it is available. Anbot can be programmed easily to patrol a specific area and has software which enables it to automatically respond to a wide range of situations. This includes being cut off from a human operator (that is normally used to decide what to do if the video and sound sensors on Anbot detect something requiring the attention of human operator). Anbot can be equipped with a weapon or, rather, non-lethal devices (like a Taser) to deal with unruly people or animals. Anbot is also equipped with two-way video and audio communication via a remote operator and someone near Anbot. Using three wheels to get around, Anbot can move up to 18 kilometers an hour (five meters a second, faster than most people can run) but is not very useful unless it is on a flat surface (preferably an indoor floor). What makes Anbot unique is that it is designed to deal with people, mainly to observe and communicate with. Devices like Anbot free a lot of soldiers from security duties and have growing more capable and popular since the 1990s.
Earlier robot designs demonstrate the steady improvements in capabilities. For example in 2014 Russia began using robotic vehicles to help guard five ballistic missile bases. Before that several Russian manufacturers were offering small remotely controlled or autonomous robotic vehicles for dealing with bombs or patrolling hazardous areas and detecting radiation. These were found useful by police and military bomb disposal teams, especially when providing security around Cold War era sites that were contaminated by high radiation levels. The most widely known one in the west is Chernobyl but there are several others that were never publicized and some that were actually secrets outside Russia until the Cold War ended. Thus Russia had a major incentive to design and build devices competitive with those produced in the United States, Israel, South Korea and a few other countries.
In 2011 an American nuclear materials storage site out in the Nevada desert began using robotic vehicles to help with security. Since then many military bases and government facilities have received similar equipment and the practice spread to other countries. These vehicles are increasingly found in commercial facilities as well. Slowly, but inevitably, mobile robots (UGVs, or unmanned ground vehicles) are taking over guard duty. This is the market the new Chinese Anbot is getting into.
South Korea wanted to use the system on its DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) border with North Korea. Israel wants to use them on the border with Gaza, which is often just an open stretch of desert. The U.S. wanted to use the systems for base defense in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. What has made these systems possible has been digital video analysis software that can detect people without human intervention. When that happens, a system operator is alerted, who decides if the person is hostile, and worth firing on. None of these systems proved entirely successful in practice but the stationary turrets did.
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