Robot security guards could be patrolling offices within the next five years, according to a city expert.
A computerised new recruit called Bob, designed at the University of Birmingham, has already been deployed by security firm G4S in a trial.
The robot was employed in an office, patrolling corridors and looking for threats while making sure everything was running efficiently.
It is believed to be the first time an autonomous robot has been used in a working office environment to do a real job.
Professor Nick Hawe, from the School of Computer Science at the university, who is leading the four-year, £7.2 million project, said: "It is a very exciting project and it has the capacity to completely change the workplace.
"Robots have applications in offices, factories and warehouses and I think in the next five to ten years there will be widespread use of them for useful tasks."
Creating a new army of robots could be a potential gold mine for industry and Mr Hawe said Birmingham was trying to position itself at the forefront.
He told the Post that, although development in the field was extremely expensive, there was potential the sector could take off.
Bob can carry out tasks such as patrolling offices, monitoring the environment and checking doors are closed and desks are clear.
The university team developed software for the robot which uses scanners and cameras to create a map of the surrounding area, identifying desks, chairs and other objects that it must negotiate, as well as detecting the movement of people.
But Mr Hawe revealed that not everything had gone to plan: "We were hoping that Bob would be there for 15 days completely unattended, but we had to go in every couple of days to reboot it."
He emphasised the project was only in its first year and explained the potential for carrying out useful roles was huge
"They can do a variety of things including cleaning, carrying packages or acting as security guards," he said.
"It gets more difficult if they're moving around a busy occupied office but they can also learn things about how the office works and adapt their behaviour.
"They need to learn the difference between what happens at night and what happens at day.
"They could learn what unusual activity is and then take action to follow something which perhaps they think shouldn’t be happening."
Mr Hawes said the robots could also be used in industry or warehouse environments.
Assuming that robots become more commonplace, Mr Hawe said there were many legal issues to be sorted out which would require legislation.
"One of the problems to be resolved might take legislation and that's all about who has responsibility," he added.
"For example, one of the robots might decide, through learning about behaviour, that someone is behaving suspiciously and decide to follow them around.
"The person concerned might get upset about being observed like this and potentially could sue for emotional distress.
"There is also what happens if they bump into someone, potentially causing injuries. One of the things which would need to be resolved is who would be liable in those circumstances."
And he insisted that we shouldn’t be worried about intelligent robots threatening humanity as depicted in films like The Terminator.
"We are not talking about Skynet and robots taking over," he said.
"Simply for robots to be properly independent, they would need proper devices to grip and pick things up and reliable methods of doing this are very difficult to produce - which is why Bob is mainly an observing robot."
David Ella, technology VP product marketing for G4S, insisted Bob and his robot friends would not be destroying human jobs.
He said: "The project isn't going to produce a robot which can replace a human but what it is going to do is support the security team by adding an additional patrolling resource."
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