Paul Blart who? A mall security robot has effectively redefined the term artificial intelligence after it barreled into a toddler last week at a northern California shopping center, running him over and leaving him with various bumps and bruises.
The robot, weighing in at 300 pounds and standing at 5 feet, is typically an attraction for patrons at the Stanford Shopping Center in Palo Alto. But this time around it was more of an attractive nuisance, the 16-month-old boy's mother told KGO-TV, the local ABC affiliate.
"The robot hit my son's head and he fell down facing down on the floor and the robot did not stop and it kept moving forward," said Tiffany Teng said. The runaway robot caused the young boy to experience a sore head, swelling in a foot and bruising on a leg. "He was crying like crazy and he never cries. He seldom cries," Teng added.
Perhaps in an effort to stave off any potential lawsuit, the robot's manufacturer called the series of events in part "horrifying" and said it was "the first report of any such incident" the company had received.
"Hearing a report that one of our machines may have injured someone is absolutely horrifying," Stacy D. Stephens, Knightscope’s Vice President Marketing and Sales, told Gizmodo in an email Wednesday. "We have reached out to the mother to invite her to our office to meet the entire Knightscope team. We would all like to have the opportunity to apologize to her and her child directly. At this time, we have not yet heard back from her."
While it may seem a bit strange for some to see Star Wars-esque robots patrolling malls, the fact that it happened in Silicon Valley shouldn't be a surprise at all. Nearly two years ago a handful of companies around the country's famed fertile ground for all things technology were courting Knightscope and its K5 robot — the same type from the mall incident — to work security at their places of business, Fast Company reported.
"We're the opposite of the mall cop," Stephens said at the time. "They sit around for 45 minutes to an hour, then they get up and walk around five minutes. The robot is going to patrol for 45 minutes to an hour, then it's going to seek out its charge-pad for five minutes."
Perhaps that's where it was heading when it collided with the tot.