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The city-state of Dubai that is home to the world’s tallest building, manmade islands shaped like palm trees, drone taxis, and jetpack wielding firefighters, is fast cementing its reputation as the city of the future. On May 22, Dubai officials added to their list of futuristic accomplishments with the introduction of the world’s first operational robot police officer.
Nicknamed Robocop after the 1987 action movie, the 1.7-meter (5.5-feet) tall humanoid robot was unveiled at the 4th annual Gulf Information Security Expo and Conference (GISEC) held at the Dubai World Trade Center from May 21-23. First introduced in 2011 as REEM by Barcelona-based PAL Robotics, the robot was built to entertain guests at conferences and serve as an interactive information booth at public venues. However, the forward-thinking officials of the Dubai police force saw another potential application and partnered with the Spanish company to build a version that would help enact justice.
Locals and visitors can interact with Lieutenant Robocop which is currently on duty at the Dubai Mall, using the touchscreen on its chest. Armed with technology from Google and IBM’s supercomputer Watson, the “policeman” can provide visitors with directions and other information regarding the mall in one of six languages, including Arabic and English and also accept payment for any fines, like parking tickets. It can also detect criminals with an 80 percent accuracy from 100-feet away and relay the information real-time to command central through its camera eyes. While Robocop cannot physically protect citizens in distress, an SOS button located on its touchscreen can connect them to a human member of the Dubai police force instantly. When not assisting people or seeking out lawbreakers, Robocop strives to bring smiles to people’s faces by posing for selfies or showering them with compliments.
Once the robot officer has been thoroughly tested, Brigadier Khalid Nasser Alrazooqi, general director of the Smart Services Department at Dubai Police who spearheaded the project, plans to “hire” more Robocops to patrol other public areas and also act as receptionists at police stations.
While Robocop is not armed or programmed to apprehend wrongdoers, Alrazooqi is currently working on creating “a fully-functional robot that can work as (a) normal police officer.” The ambitious official envisions that by 2030, 25 percent of the Dubai police force will comprise humanoid robots. He also hopes to introduce a 3-meter (9.8-feet) tall mobile police robot that can run at speeds of up to 80 km per hour at the Dubai Expo in 2020. Though the ideas sound like science fiction, don’t be surprised if this Middle Eastern emirate, which has transformed itself from a desert backwater to one of the world’s most advanced cities in less than 50 years, manages to pull it off.
Resources: gizmag.com. cnn.com, Rt.com,huffingtonpost.com