Jim McMahon

Robocops aren’t just a Hollywood fantasy anymore: The world’s first police patrol robot recently hit the streets of Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates. It moves using motion sensors (much like a driverless car), speaks in nine languages, and can shake your hand. Out on patrol, it scans faces, automatically comparing them against a police database using facial recognition software, and alerts human officers if it spots a wanted criminal. It also reads license plates and looks out for anything suspicious—like unattended bags—by livestreaming video directly to a police center. If this unarmed prototype proves a success, Dubai officials recently told CNN, they plan to develop armed robots that can catch crooks themselves, and to have a 25 percent robocop police force by 2030. But some experts question whether arming robots is a good idea. “There will be ethical issues,” says Elizabeth Joh of the UC Davis School of Law in California. “Such robots would probably save the lives of officers . . . but how would these machines accurately assess true threats of violence to the police or the public?”