I write on a Lenovo with a Windows 8 operating system. Or, I used to. For six months, my computer has been urging me to upgrade to Windows 8.1. After reading about it, and generally being both unimpressed and mistrustful when it comes to Windows updates and upgrades, I kept declining. About two weeks ago, my computer again urged me to upgrade, but this time, instead of giving me the usual array of download options (not now, remind me later, etc.), it only presented options to download now, in one hour, in two hours, or in four hours. There was no “not now” or “fuck off” option. I tinkered with the settings, trying to make sure no updates would happen automatically, and I thought I solved the problem. But four hours later, as I was typing away, the screen suddenly went dark and the thing began updating. When it was done, I couldn’t connect to the internet. It’s a typical problem with Windows 8.1, I guess — a driver issue. Once I restored an old version of the driver, it was fine. But for a while there, I was cursing Microsoft, consumed by the kind of rage only computer-related issues can cause. I came to the conclusion (not for the first time) that Microsoft is evil. And now, my suspicions are confirmed — Microsoft is working with DALEKs.
Okay, so maybe the thing isn’t supposed to be evil, but it’s tough to look at Microsoft’s K5 and think of anything but The Doctor’s nemeses. K5 is an autonomous robotic security guard that has been patrolling Microsoft’s Silicon Valley campus as part of a demonstration for Knightscope, the company that developed the technology. Five of the five-foot-tall, 300-pound robots wheeled around Microsoft’s turf, showing how the robots could function as crime prevention just as well as human security guards could. They’ve got cameras, sensors, GPS, scanners, and a “commanding but friendly physical presence.” Unlike most humans, the K5 has eyes on the back of its head, as well as the sides — four cameras point in four different directions, and another camera can perform license plate recognition.
It can operate for 24 hours on a single battery charge, and it only takes 15-20 minutes to charge up a battery. That’s a lot easier and cheaper than paying for a human employee’s health insurance. K5 has artificial intelligence too, which allows it to process the information it receives and try to make intelligent decisions regarding that information, especially when it comes to spotting out something unusual or dangerous and communicating that situation back to headquarters. It can also decide to blast someone with an “ear-piercing alarm” — so maybe it’s not so different from a DALEK after all.