Man assaults Silicon Valley security robot, police say

Commentary: A man has been charged after allegedly knocking over a crime prevention robot.

Chris Matyszczyk
2 min read

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.

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He was just trying to maintain law and order.

Anton/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

They mean well, robots. They're just trying to make our world a better place.

I fear, however, we're still not so sure. I base this -- today, at least -- on an incident that allegedly occurred last Thursday in the parking lot of a company called Knightscope.

The company makes K5 security robots and boasts on its website: "Robots Winning Against Crime."

Well, not always.

Last Thursday, one of Knightscope's security robots was on patrol at the company's offices in Mountain View, California, when, police say, it was assaulted by a human being.

"On April 19 around 8:15 pm, we responded to Knightscope, located on the 1000 block of Terra Bella Avenue, for reports of a prowler in the area," a police spokeswoman told me.

This alleged prowler wasn't the robot. It was a human, 41-year-old Jason Sylvain. He was accused of knocking over the robot. Some might consider this a feat, as the robot weighs 300 lbs.

Was this a fit of existential woe?

"When we arrived, we met with Sylvain, and as we were speaking with him, he appeared confused, had red, glassy eyes and a strong odor of alcohol emitted from him," the spokeswoman told me.

Stacy Dean Stephens, Knightscope's vice president of marketing and sales, told me that the robot took it all in its stride.

"The robot did exactly as it was suppose to do -- the 'assault' was detected and immediately reported. The alarms on the robot sounded, the suspect attempted to flee the scene and was detained by one of my colleagues and me until the Mountain View Police arrived," he told me.

The robot only suffered scratches. "The robot has recuperated from his injuries and is back on patrol keeping our office and employees safe again," Stephens told me. It's unclear, however, whether it bears any emotional scars.

What's clear is that Sylvain is in trouble. Police say that "the employee of the business requested a private person's arrest for Sylvain for prowling." He was also charged with being drunk in public. Police weren't able to say whether Sylvain had legal representation, and CNET's attempts to contact him were unsuccessful.

Stephens, however, told me: "He claimed to be an engineer that wanted to 'test' the security robots. I guess he now has his answer."

It's easy to imagine these robots are innocent beings, there only for the good of mankind. Last year, however, a mom and dad accused a robot of mowing down their child at a shopping mall, causing injury.

The robot was a K5 security robot, made by Knightscope.

First published April 25, 8:32 p.m. PT.

Update, 8:46 p.m.: Adds comment from Knightscope.

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