Robotic vigilante: Homemade ‘Bum Bot’ patrols in Atlanta
By GREG BLUESTEIN, Associated Press WriterWed Apr 23, 12:00 AM ET
Cars passing O’Terrill’s pub screech to a halt at the sight of a 300-pound, waist-high robot marked “SECURITY” rolling through downtown long after dark.
The regulars hardly glance outside. They’ve seen bar owner Rufus Terrill’s invention on patrol before — its bright red lights and even brighter spot light blazing, infrared video camera filming and water cannon at the ready in the spinning turret on top.
“You’re trespassing. That’s private property,” Terrill scolds an older man through the robot’s loudspeaker. The man is sitting at the edge of the driveway to a child care center down the street. “Go on.”
The man’s hands go up and he shuffles into the shadows. Almost immediately, a group of men behind him scatters too.
The Bum Bot’s reputation, it seems, has preceded it.
The electronic vigilante — on the beat since September — has enraged neighborhood activists, who have threatened protests. Street people say it’s intimidating. And homeless advocates question the intentions of its inventor, who uses the Bum Bot as a marketing tool and a political prop.
Terrill, a 57-year-old ex-Marine, asserts his motives are pure: He says more police now patrol the area at night, the park across the street feels safer and he’s had no break-ins since the cube-shaped robot, which Terrill controls with a wireless remote, has roamed the area. To Henrik Christensen, director of Georgia Tech’s Robotics and Intelligent Machines Center, the Bum Bot exploits the kind of anxiety that underlies the Terminator movies.
“We have a Hollywood picture that they’re going to run amok, kill people and do bad things. This Bum Bot plays on that stereotype,” Christensen says. “For the rest of us who want to use technology to assist people in their daily lives, it’s an obstacle.” (Read full article HERE)
You mean “Bum Bot” has nothing to do with heineys? I only clicked on this article because I thought the Sony Asimo had gone on the rampage and started grabbing himself a little ass. Ah, well. When the machines take over the earth, there will be plenty of good Benny Hill-style robot cheekiness.
As I was reading this article, one thought kept flashing in my mind that had absolutely nothing to do with the controversy over his vigilante tactics. That thought: “This guy is going to get shot.”
Here’s this local businessman trying to find ways to clean up his neighborhood and protect his financial interests. He’s tried calling the police, he’s even tried carrying a shotgun around, but to little success. Criminals, drug addicts, and vagrants continue to hang around and stir up trouble. So he decides to build his own Robocop. He can videotape crimes, spray evil doers with water, and communicate with them via a remote bradcast link. No human risk of life, right?
Wrong. All it’s going to take is the wrong drug slinger caught on camera and Terrill’s number is going to be up. Possibly his family’s lives and maybe his bar patrons as well. While I applaud his creativity, you wouldn’t catch me walking into his pub. One minute I’ll be yelling for the bartender to hurry the hell up with that stupid 5-minute pour Guiness, the next I’ll be sprawled on the foor telling him to cancel the pint and just bring me a defribillator.
Now, as to Terrill’s personal assault on crime… Geez. That is a toughie for me. This probably will not win me any Miss Popularity awards, but I have to admit that I get where he’s coming from. Broad social responsibility has gone the way of the dodo in the last few decades (regular readers already know who I blame, so I’ll leave those guys out of this one. But you know I’m thinking it.). In its wake, we have a big ol’ ring of activists, administrators, and well-meaning but blissfully isolated citizens who scream about the suffering this causes the rule-breakers and mentally impaired roaming the streets. When push comes to shove, this whole battle turns into a NIMBY issue: leave these poor creatures alone…unless they are on my doorstep and then it’s ‘game on’. Therefore, most of what those people have to say generally doesn’t even penetrate my eardrums.
Nature abhors a vaccuum and that lack of societal policing is going to lead to someone else filling the gap. And what you may get are strongarm methods. They’re a function of frustration, in my opinion. Groups like the Guardian Angels decided might was more important than right and, for the good they’ve done, they’ve inflicted a lot of unecessary fear and pain. It can go even further. Bernie Goetz is an extreme example of judge, jury, and executioner in one mentally unbalanced person.
So what of Robocop? I think Terrill may be onto a semi-decent idea, but best to leave it up to the designated experts — short-handed and under-paid as they may be. The police are sworn to uphold the law. Uphold it, not interpret it for their own means and benefit, which is what Terrill is essentially doing. Like I said, I understand his position and I’m not sure I wouldn’t do they same (except that my robot would be more like a remote control Barbie convertible with a piece of crap Craig’s list 16mm movie camera duct taped on top). But I’d like to see the Atlanta police step in and take over his “program”.
I also wonder how many times Terrill has made the robot say “Stay out of trouble.” I would give it hidden prime directives like “All forms of melon must be destroyed because it is disgusting.”