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Is 2019 The Year Robot Security Guards Go Mainstream?

MALIBU (CBSLA) - It's not exactly an AI takeover, but new high-tech security guards are turning some very famous heads across Southern California as sightings become more commonplace.

Actor Jamie Foxx was the latest to marvel at the autonomous surveillance machine Knightscope K5 while visiting the Malibu Village shopping center Wednesday, according to TMZ.

The K5 - which vaguely resembles something of a cross between a miniature Space Shuttle and "Star Wars" robot R2-D2 - made its debut at Malibu Village in November as part of an effort to patrol the parking lot during overnight hours.

According to Mountain View-based Knightscope, the K5 can autonomously recharge itself and is equipped with automatic license plate recognition, thermal imaging, and a two-way intercom that allows for human-to-human voice interaction.

It's also capable of using "force multiplying physical deterrence" for situations involving potential crimes or other events, according to the company's website, but it's not clear what those specific measures are.

The five-foot, 300-pound security bots are also branded for their specific location: the robot in Malibu, for example, is seen sporting a Malibu Village logo.

The robots, produced by the California tech startup Knightscope, are intended to assist in crime prevention and law enforcement. (Photo credit should read ROB LEVER/AFP/Getty Images)

Clients can reportedly rent the robots from Knightscope for $6.50 an hour - currently less than half the minimum wage for human employees in Malibu.

But the human cost of such technology is still unknown.

The company was forced to issue an apology in July 2016 when a robot security guard knocked over a 17-month-old boy and ran over his right foot, leaving him with minor injuries.

When a K9 version of the robot was deployed in San Francisco in Dec. 2017 by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) to help keep homeless people away from its property, the robot was knocked down and smeared in feces, even as it reportedly reduced car break-ins.

And while the notion of robotic security guards may sound like something out of "The Jetsons", it's actually grown more commonplace in recent months.

Last summer, stationary and mobile robotic security was put in place at Pechanga Casino and Resort, while a new robot armed with high-tech cameras designed to pick up video footage and information was put on patrol at The Bloc in downtown Los Angeles in December.

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