Surprise. New York's first robocops are freaking people out

She’s no Alex Murphy, but Rosie the robotic cop is on patrol in New York City. She’s one of five mostly autonomous robots roaming the streets and even airports, collecting information and even talking to citizens who try to engage her. This, of course, has privacy advocates hitting the panic button, but thus far Rosie hasn’t mowed down any tourists. She doesn’t even have any weapons. (CBS New York)

The security force of the future is already patrolling several neighborhoods in the Tri-State Area.

The robotic protectors can see what you’re doing and even talk back to you, but the machines created by a New Yorker have prompted serious privacy concerns, CBS2’s Clark Fouraker reported Tuesday.

One of the models, named “Rosie,” uses the same technology as a self-driving car to patrol the sidewalks at the Lefrak City Apartments in Queens.

The CEO of the company who builds these robots describes them as, “a crazy combination of artificial intelligence, self-driving autonomous technology, robotics, and analytics.”

But Rosie doesn’t have a gun. Her top speed wouldn’t allow her to catch a one-legged purse snatcher who forgot his crutches. So what is she actually doing? Well, the machine’s AI incorporates four normal cameras and one thermal imaging camera, allowing Rosie to navigate around her designated patrol area, hopefully without running over anyone’s feet. But those cameras are also reading and recording license plates, scanning people’s faces looking for unusual heat signatures.

So while Rosie may not be able to catch any bad guys herself, she’s sending all of that information back home where it can be given to law enforcement in the event of a crime. As a bonus for any police departments who purchase a robocop, once the robot is paid for it only costs between six and twelve dollars per hour to operate one. That’s a lot cheaper than adding another officer to the patrol beat.

The downside for some New Yorkers is the privacy issue. The robot is somehow able to detect and record cellphone serial numbers in its patrol area. Also, while these models apparently don’t employ facial recognition, the police are increasingly using that technology and Rosie’s pictures can be fed into the system. One other concern expressed by the locals is the fear that Rosie could somehow be hacked and put to nefarious uses. But given the aforementioned lack of weapons and slow rate of travel, I’m not sure how much damage they could do.

Of course, that will all change when SKYNET becomes self-aware. Rosie will likely be issued an internal machine gun almost immediately and then all bets are off.