Rogue robot gets arrested at political rally in Russia while gathering data from voters

In light of the news that a robot got arrested at a political rally in Russia, the rise of the machines may be upon us sooner than we thought. An attendee at a rally for a parliamentary candidate in Moscow called the police on the robot, who was hanging around in what presumably looked like a suspicious manner. The police led it away and even tried to handcuff it, although the robot was compliant and, according to witnesses, didn’t try to resist arrest.

A spokesperson for the robot’s manufacturers, Promobot, told tech news site Inverse that it was at the rally to record “voters’ opinions on [a] variety of topics for further processing and analysis by the candidate’s team.” The candidate in question, Valery Kalachev, informed press that he had several of these robots working for him to gather data from the public.

As its company name suggests, Promobot originally designed the robot to interact with humans as a promoter or customer liaison for businesses. Whether that includes collecting data from the electorate is unclear, but admittedly a lot of digital technology already performs similar tasks anyway. At least this robot is cute. It just wants to be your friend… or does it?

Promobot
CREDIT: Promobot/YouTube

The arrest isn’t the first time a Promobot creation has gone rogue. In June 2016, one of the company’s robots escaped a research lab when a worker left a gate open, stalling traffic in the area for about 40 minutes. It only made it 164 feet before its battery ran out, but the desire for freedom had been planted; the following week, a Promobot robot made another break for the outside world. At the time, Promobot execs said the robot might be scrapped due to its escape attempts, but as the arrest demonstrates, the company’s robots are still going strong.

It’s possible the arrest, along with these escape attempts, could have been a publicity stunt — especially since Promobot’s website’s account of the first escape brings up the robot’s “active navigation system” multiple times and notes that the “positioning system has shown itself well.” Sounds less like an artificial intelligence uprising and more like a viral marketing campaign.

Then again, maybe that’s what the robots want us to think so we’ll be complacent and leave them alone. Now that they have data from voters, they’re well-placed to start laying the groundwork for a political coup. We’d better rewatch Ex Machina and The Matrix to prepare, just to be on the safe side.