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World’s first robot cop begins duty in Dubai, is way less cool than you’d think

Photo: Giuseppe Cacace/AFP/Getty Images
Photo: Giuseppe Cacace/AFP/Getty Images

The world’s first robotic cop has joined the Dubai police. According to Reuters, the automated officer was built by a Barcelona-based robotics company and is part of a government program to supplement all its lazy, sleepy, illness-prone human cops with machines that look like a training dummy mounted to the top of a carpet cleaner. Should this initial roll-out prove successful and not the morally dubious mess science fiction has trained us to assume it will be, officials hope to have robots making up 25 percent of the city’s police force by 2030.

If it’s any comfort, it sounds like these initial police-bots are more like roving cameras and customer service centers than actual crime fighters. Built into its discomforting black eyes are cameras that let it compare faces with a police database and alert officers to matches, an ability that definitely can’t go horribly wrong. The bot can also read license plates and detect risks, like unattended bags. Citizens can use the touchscreen built into the robot’s chest to chat with police, report crimes, and even pay fines. “We now see the new generations who are using smart devices—they love to use these kind of tools,” the director general of the Smart Services Department at Dubai Police told Reuters. “A lot of them have seen the RoboCop movie and they said: You guys, you have done it.”

Regardless of how doofy this thing looks, it’s still a horrifying prospect, but Dubai doesn’t want to stop here. The next batch of bots, according to the government of Dubai, will be used to “tackle crime and misdemeanors,” and after that, the city hopes to develop a 9-meter-tall robot-suit that officers can pilot and use to lift heavy objects and run up to 80 kilometers per hour. Maybe touchscreen guy wasn’t so bad after all.

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