By: Mehran Kooshiar

In August 2017 at the River Oaks Shopping Center a K5 Knightscope security robot by the name, ROD2, was setup to protect the center from criminals. ROD2 became the latest addition to River Oaks shopping patrol.

It has eye-like cameras which provide information on its surroundings and monitor for unusual activity and extra surveillance in an area where expensive cars and high-end stores might tempt thieves. This 5-foot autonomous robot resembles R2D2 but more friendly than calculating. By itself ROD2 is able to roam with a complex amount of sensors that enable it to detect obstacles and stay on track. It’s equipped to read license plates, recognize familiar faces, and detect suspicious activity. It can also sense extreme heat, something that we all wish we couldn’t feel under the scorching Houston sun. It hasn’t recorded trouble at River Oaks yet, besides the time a car bumped into it while backing out. Though as the company CEO, William Santana said, ”Like any technology you can have a fault condition and an error can occur.” The company that makes these robots, Knightscope, was founded in 2013 by a former Texas police officer and a automotive executive. Though they’re not the only ones in this “robot craze.” Cobalt Robotics has also rolled out a wave of security robots. Knightscope robots face a distinct challenge: They generally operate outdoors in unpredictable environments, challenging their developers to account for a range of potential scenarios. One of the robots made headlines last month when it apparently tripped into a fountain outside an office in Washington, D.C. Besides being an addition to security, the robot is a nice addition to the environment. On the sidewalks, the River Oaks District robot greets shoppers with “Good morning,” or “Good afternoon.” It engages with a few other phrases, but those who linger too long snapping photos occasionally prompt its blue lights to turn red in frustration. Often times it will barge in on selfies and say, “Excuse me.” If you want to see this robot for yourself you can go to the River Oaks District, where the robot is confined to part of the parking garage and areas between Cartier and the iPic theater.