While some Twitter users theorized that the K5 committed roboticide, a simpler explanation was provided by Michael Bailey-Van Kuren, the C. Michael Armstrong professor of engineering and interactive media at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.
“Like with any technology, you can have a fault condition and an error can occur,” he said on Tuesday.
Technology is advanced well enough to direct autonomous devices away from obstacles, he said, noting that even Roomba, the vacuuming robot, has sensors to avoid stairs. That the K5 did not detect the stairs was an anomaly, he said.
Knightscope said on its website that its models “guide themselves through even the most complex environments.”
If the K5 were able to feel embarrassed, it could take comfort in science fiction long foretelling that stairs will be a great nemesis of security robots.
In the movie “RoboCop” — which opened in theaters 30 years ago on Monday — an enforcement droid known as the ED-209 falls down a flight of stairs and struggles like a turtle on its back.
This is not the K5’s first brush with media notoriety. It made headlines in April in Mountain View, Calif., when a man who was drunk knocked down a model, scratching it. Last year, another one ran over a 16-month-old boy at a Palo Alto, Calif., shopping center, causing minor injuries, according to television news accounts.
It appears Paul Blart still has job security.