Robot Prison Guards to Join Human Watchmen
A prototype of South Korea's new prison guard robot.
CREDIT: Yonhap News Agency
U.S. battlefield drones have unleashed deadly fire from the sky for years, but robots have yet to prove as capable in keeping human prisoners or rioters in line. South Korea's Ministry of Justice wants to test out such less-lethal robotic roles by deploying possibly the world's first robot prison guards next year.
The robots won't just act like mobile surveillance cameras as they patrol the corridors and keep a watch on prisoners inside a jail at Pohang, South Korea in March. They will carry software capable of analyzing any unusual or violent behavior inside prison cells, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Such robotic hall monitors can instantly alert human guards about any outbreaks of trouble, even as they give human guards a break from the constant vigilance of long night shifts. But the robots won't be equipped to carry any less-lethal devices such as Tasers or tear gas, let alone more lethal weapons. They'll even get a touchup on their appearance to seem friendlier.
That's because the experiment is not intended to build terminator robots , said Prof. Lee Baik-chul of Kyonggi University in South Korea, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. He added that prisoners could even use the robots to communicate with guards in case of a life-threatening situation or illness.
Having disarmed robots make sense as a way to soothe any concerns about robot-on-human violence in prison systems especially when the robots must make act autonomously by making decisions on their own about when to get human guards involved. Even on the battlefield, human warriors are still wary of giving robots the ability to decide when to pull the trigger.
But the U.S. military and robotics researchers have begun considering scenarios where robots use rubber bullets, tear gas or water cannon to keep humans under control. They must first figure out a number of crucial issues beyond mere engineering, such as how human prisoners or a mob might psychologically react to peacekeeper robots .