Robocops a reality by 2084?

A researcher has said robotic policemen will hit the streets within the next 75 years.

It's still a long way off, but robotic policeman could be on patrol within the next 75 years, according to one of the UK's leading robotics authorities.

The claim was made by Professor Noel Sharkey, a robotics professor from the University of Sheffield, who undertook a two-month research project aimed at examining how robots will affect law enforcement within the next century.

While these robots will not be fully autonomous or indeed "super-intelligent", Sharkey suggested they will have human-like features and the ability to detect weapons as well as recognising drunks and aggressive behaviour in large areas.

This could make them suitable for routine tasks, such as drink and drug tests, allowing human police officers to be redeployed to other areas, he said.

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Sharkey also speculated that these robots will have access to our bank accounts, taxes, motoring information and criminal records, enabling them to instantaneously identify who people are.

It is a proposal, he noted, which is likely to cause friction: "It may well lead to public outrage as robots will have access to integrated databases of all information of citizens ... [similar systems] were closed due to public outrage and breach of liberty, privacy laws and human rights."

Alongside the deployment of robotic police officers, the report also predicts autonomous police cars will appear by 2070 which will be able to spot speeding cars and their license plates and automatically hit them with a fine, or deduct points from their license.

However, Sharkey did sound a note of caution over the technology.

"These robot developments could be extremely beneficial in the protection of citizens and police in the hands of benevolent governments," said Sharkey. "But in the wrong hands ... robot law enforcement could be a major blow to individual privacy and basic human rights."

Earlier this year, Intel researchers showed off their robots and predicted we'd all have robotic butlers within a decade.

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