The parents of a 17-month-old boy say a Stanford Shopping Center security robot knocked down their son and ran over his foot before they were able to get him out of the way.
Tiffany Teng and Eric Cheng of San Jose were shopping at the mall, located on El Camino Real, on July 7 when their son, Harwin, was struck by the autonomous robot and knocked to the ground, they said.
Harwin had been walking in front of them near the Splendid and Armani Exchange shops when he collided with the robot, which was moving toward them. The boy struck his head on the robot and was knocked to the ground and onto his face as it continued to move forward. After the boy fell, the robot did not stop, but instead continued to move forward, running over Harwin's right foot, Teng said.
But the Mountain View company that makes the robots, Knightscope, Inc., maintains that the Star Wars-like robot is safe and has clocked thousands of hours of operation and human-robot interaction without injuring anyone. The company doesn't deny the accident occurred, but it characterized the incident as a freak accident.
The encounter between the child and machine occurred around 2:30 p.m. In terms of height, girth and weight, Harwin was outnumbered. The boy is 32 inches tall and weighs about 25 pounds; Knightscope's K5 model stands 5 feet in height, weighs 300 pounds and is 3-feet wide, according to the company's website.
When Harwin went down and the robot did not stop or retreat, Teng said she was horrified.
"I screamed. I went in front of the robot and I tried to push it with all of my strength. It was just too heavy," she said.
Teng was able to move Harwin's left foot away before one of the K5's wheels ran over it, after rolling over his right foot. Her husband pulled the boy from under the robot before he was further run over, she said. Harwin was screaming.
A nearby retailer called a human security guard, Teng said. An ambulance arrived after about 30 minutes and took the boy to a hospital, where he was released after an examination. His pediatrician conducted a follow-up exam on Monday. The doctor did not think that Harwin had any internal bleeding or broken bones, Teng said.
Meanwhile, Stanford Shopping Center has taken its K5 robots offline.
Knightscope markets the robot as having "a commanding presence," and the rental rate is $6.50 an hour. The robot, which scans the environment looking for unusual activity, use 30 sensors to detect movement and sound from an inch away to more than 300 feet, Knightscope said in an incident report the company released on Wednesday afternoon. Its 360-degree view is uploaded in real time to a security network, which provides human security guards with data they can access from their smartphones regardless of where they are in the mall.
The security robots have become popular with mall guests, who frequently take "robot selfies" and give "robot hugs." But Harwin's parents were clearly not feeling the love last week, and they were further upset after hearing a member of the Stanford Shopping Center security staff say the robot had recently hit another child in the same week, Teng said.
In either case, the robot would have recorded the entire incident.
Knightscope issued a field incident report on Wednesday afternoon, claiming that the child "left the vicinity of his guardians and began running toward the machine. The machine veered to the left to avoid the child, but the child ran backwards directly into the front quart of the machine, at which point the machine stopped and the child fell to the ground."
"The machine's sensors registered no vibration alert and the machine motors did not fault as they would when encountering an obstacle. Once the guardians retrieved the child and the path was clear, the machine resumed patrolling. The entire incident lasted a few seconds and a scrape on the child's leg and a bruise with minor swelling were reported," the incident report stated.
Teng questioned why, if another child was injured, the shopping center did not take action at that time. She sent the shopping center's management, Simon Property Group, an email after the incident asking for answers to that question.
"We would like to understand if your management was aware of these events, what steps you had taken after the previous incident to prevent further problems, and why these have failed," she wrote.
The company, through its general manager for Stanford Shopping Center, did not respond to the parents' question. Shopping center officials declined to respond to additional inquiries made by the Weekly regarding any prior incidents.
General Manager Josh Kalkhorst did offer an apology in a brief reply to the parents and promised to make a few inquiries regarding the incident.
Knightscope denied that the robots, which travel at about 1 mph, have had any other accidents.
"There have been thousands of encounters with adults, children and both large and small pets documented daily on social media that have also taken place without any reported incidents," the company stated.
Knightscope said that company representatives reached out to the family "on numerous occasions without reply."
"The company is, therefore, publicly extending a formal apology for the freakish accident and is extending an invitation to the family to meet at Knightscope's headquarters in Mountain View to learn more about the technology," the company statement stated.
Teng said she received a voicemail from the company on Tuesday, which she planned to respond to on Wednesday afternoon.
"I don't want a tour. All I want is an answer why this robot didn't stop. It's not Disneyland," she said.