London: A British security solutions group has enrolled a robot as a trainee security officer on a trial, marking the entry of an autonomous robot in a working office environment for the first time to do a real job.
The robot known as Bob from the University of Birmingham is carrying out tasks such as patrolling the offices, and monitoring the environment, checking doors are closed and that desks are clear on a three week trial.
This is the first time that an autonomous robot has been deployed in a working office environment of G4S security solutions.
Bob is a very sophisticated robot because the research team has developed the software that enables him to process all the information he needs to map and navigate his environment.
Using cameras and scanners he is able to create a map of his surrounding area, identifying desks, chairs and other objects that he must negotiate when he is moving around, as well as detecting people's movement through activity recognition.
While Bob carries out his duties, he will also be gathering information about his surroundings and learning about how the environment changes over time for example, where people go to, where objects appear, whether fire doors are open or closed.
He will also know when to report to his docking station to charge up his batteries.
Bob is part of the 7.2 million pounds STRANDS project where robots will learn how to act intelligently and independently in real-world environments, supporting security officers or care home assistants, while understanding 3D space and how this changes over time from milliseconds to months.
Dr Nick Hawes, from the School of Computer Science at the University of Birmingham, who leads the STRANDS project said, "We wanted to build an autonomous intelligent robot that can be put into a real world scenario like a place of work. Current robots aren't very good with their hands, or able to manipulate objects, however Bob is good at driving around and monitoring objects, so is perfect for a job in security as a night or day watchman where he can monitor what is going on in his immediate surroundings".
"We want to see Bob survive on his own for up to 15 days, doing jobs that are useful for security, for example, checking whether fire doors are obstructed, whether there is paper on desks.
"G4S became involved in the STRANDS project to help guide academic researchers into the future needs of the security industry and our customers," he added.
"G4S are involved in various security solutions which combine people and technology, and in this case we wanted to make sure that the security robot of the future carries out useful tasks and really adds value," said David Ella of G4S Technology VP product marketing.
"The STRANDS project isn't going to produce a robot which can replace a human, but what it is going to do is support the security team by adding an additional patrolling resource", he added.