The city of the future today

Imagine a frightening picture from the near future: an unearned police robot with black eyes, collecting evidence and calculating the criminal.

In June last year, such a robocop – in a police cap to enhance the “sinister valley effect” – was demonstrated at the highest skyscraper in the world, the Burj Khalifa building in Dubai.

Did he manage to do anything in the past year? Or is Dubai’s passion for robotics nothing more than just a PR to show that the country is on the cutting edge of the latest technology?

As explained by the robotics company PAL Robotics, by the nature of duties, it rather serves as a guide than a policeman.

“This robocop has become part of the Dubai police to help citizens in a new and more diverse ways, and it is in popular places and shopping centers,” the BBC told the company. “He can give out the necessary information in different languages, thanks to his software, and can send people to the right place for them.”

“In addition, it is a kind of point for citizens to contact the police of Dubai – through the built-in microphone; in addition, with its help, people can use other police services – for example, pay a road penalty, “- explained the developers robokopa.

The introduction of robots into the police department is only part of a broader plan to make the local police more developed and technologically advanced, which will ultimately lead to complete computerization of police stations and staff reduction.

Dubai authorities plan that by 2030 robots should be about a quarter of police officers.

“Such robots can work around the clock. They will not be asked to leave, they will not get sick and will not go to the decree. They can work non-stop, “- one of the Dubai policemen described the advantages of robocopics after the first such” employee “came to them in the state.


Such a nice robot offers passengers to familiarize themselves with the train schedule at this railway station in France. Photo: robotrends

The professor of informatics at the English university in Sheffield, Noel Sharkey, worked with the Dubai authorities to introduce these robots.

“Initially, it was planned that these robots will help the elderly or serve as a guide,” he told the BBC, expressing doubt as to how good they will be as policemen.

“It seems that it was planned to equip them with an emergency call button that will send your coordinates to the site, and this would be a good addition [to its functions], although passers-by can start making fun of it or overturning it,” says Sharkey.

Such precedent was already: in July last year, a robot providing security in an office building in Washington was suddenly found floating in a fountain.

Despite the fact that there are very few robots yet, Professor Sharkey predicts that in the coming years their application will significantly expand – they will monitor or detect the presence of explosives and other dangerous substances on the street.


AnBot patrols the international airport in Shenzhen. Photo: SHUTTERSTOCK

In China, where the construction of the world’s largest network of outdoor surveillance is underway, robots already patrol many stations and airports.

In Henan Province, West Station in Zhengzhou stretched out in all its 1 meter 60 centimeters of a robocopop named E-Patrol Robot Sheriff.

It is equipped with a set of cameras and has already reportedly been able to detect a small fire with the help of its sensors.

He can also recognize faces, which allows him to “identify and pursue suspects,” the Mashable portal reports.

And at the international airport in Shenzhen since last year, conducts an examination of passengers AnBot, equipped with four cameras.

According to the Chinese newspaper People’s Daily, it is also equipped with an “electrically charged device for preventing riots,” which is somewhat alarming.

It is very active now in China using drones, and many in this country believe that robots should be used more often in large cities to perform all sorts of tasks – from delivering goods to autonomous taxis without a driver.

In Dubai, the use of unmanned flying taxis has already been tested, now they plan to launch a “hoverbike” – a hybrid air bike, which will allow policemen to respond faster to the challenges.


A single air taxi was tested in Dubai in September 2017 and can be launched within five years. Photo: REUTERS

However, Professor Sharkey is skeptical about flying robotics.

“The sky over Dubai can be dammed up very quickly,” he says. – But the ground level of the city can become a hotbed of bad ideas and secrets – just like in “Running on the blade.”

At the same time, he believes that the emergence of robotics in the cities is inevitable.

“I see a lot of spheres in the city where robots could be useful. They will clean the streets, check the buildings, deliver the goods. But so far their production is very expensive and they often break down, “says Professor Sharkey.
 

Marble is developing a whole series of food robots in San Francisco, but some residents are trying to ensure that robots are banned from moving along the sidewalks. Photo: MARBLE
 
There are those who believe that over the next 10 years, the sky above the cities will swarm with flying robotics – not only delivering a parcel, but also helping to regulate the city’s infrastructure.

A researcher at the University of Leeds Bilal Kadduh is a member of a group of scientists developing a set of drones that will repair road potholes.

“There are three drones in the flotilla: one inspects the roads, the second digs and prepares the road, and the third – with the 3D printer on board – can repair them,” he explains.

Scientists expect that the current prototype of this working model will be ready already this year.

According to Kadduh, there will come a day when drones will be widely used in construction and will be able to more accurately identify the problems that have arisen, and not just send an infinite set of parameters to the center, as now.

He foresees the cities of the future, where the drones will manage the entire infrastructure.

“Imagine a drone that can land on some high structure – and with a robotic hand repair something, or replace a light bulb on a pole, or install a new communication module on a telecommunications tower,” he says.

Such robots will not allow people to be used where it is dangerous for life, and also to manage the city more effectively.

But, of course, there are limitations.

“People do not like round-the-clock buzzing of drones, besides they are quite difficult to integrate into the already existing airspace. That is, the technology is already there – now the whole question is whether the technical regulations and the attitude of people to them can change “, the scientist-developer believes.