BB-8, the spherical orange and white robot that makes whirring noises as cute as kitten purrs doesn’t exactly seem cut out for use in a police force or military. It’s a great toy, but not designed for detonating bombs, sniffing drugs, or whatever else those agencies use robots for. But Sphero, an educational STEM toy company that once made Disney’s Star Wars BB-8 and R2D2 robot toys, has started a spin-off company called Company Six (CO6) to make bots for law enforcement.
According to a press release first obtained by The Verge, Sphero said it’s using the experience it gained making toys to create robotic products for “police, fire, EMT, military, and others with dangerous jobs.” That could include mini surveillance robots for reconnaissance missions and scoping out dangerous territory, like in a fire, a hostage situation, a meth lab, or a swamp for a dead body. (I know, I watch way too many crime shows.)
Law enforcement and the military have been using robots for a while now as a standard part of their operations. Back in 2016, the Cleveland Police Department Bomb Squad enlisted the help of high school students to build a robot that would help them remotely assess hazardous areas for threats. (It was a contest of sorts during the Republican National Convention.) But there are companies who make and sell robots specifically for these types of situations, like ReconRobotics and Roboteam, who make products like the Throwbot 2 Robot and Iris, respectively. The Throwbot is a mini bot you literally throw into an area that you want it to scout, and it crawls over terrain up to 2 inches in height. The Iris works similarly.
CO6 hasn’t said what it will be making—it’s possible they’ll focus on similar types of robots to ReconRobotics and Roboteam. But maybe the company’s bots will have a BB-8 or R2D2 twist, which would be interesting (though there’s zero chance they’ll resemble those trademarked characters). I just hope they don’t have lasers like the robots in Short Circuit—then it’s only a matter of time before one of these companies creates something that gets struck by lightening and develops human intelligence and emotion. If that happens in 2020, with the way things are going right now, a lightening strike would probably send those bots on a murder spree. (Again with the crime shows.)
As I let my mind run wild, the truth is we’ll probably end up with more hilariously bad bots like the HP RoboCop that once told a woman to “step out of the way” when she tried to use it to call the actual police.