Artificial Intelligence (AI) has officially entered the physical security realm, as Palo-Alto, California-based Cobalt Robotics unveiled a line of robot security guards to complement—not replace—human security guards.

AI technology at work

The indoor-only roving robots utilize technology similar to self-driving cars to detect people and problems within a building.  Cobalt co-founders former GoogleX and SpaceX engineers Travis Deyle and Erik Schluntz, say the robo-guards contain 60 sensors, including light detection and ranging (LIDAR), ultrasound, depth sensors, and wide-angle day and night cameras to detect people nearby.

Mics and two-way video chat screens enable human security guards or building managers to remotely interact with a person approached by the robot. RFID scanners are present for checking an individuals’ security or visitor badge.

Cobalt managed to develop the robots and the proprietary artificial intelligence software that operates them in just a year. Swiss design consultancy founder and principal designer of fuseproject Yves Behar developed a design for the robots that resembles a gliding bishop chess piece with a tablet screen for a head, in silver-white or metallic blue.

Filling a financial gap for companies

Deyle says the robots will fill a gap for companies that find it too expensive to hire sufficient human security guards to patrol every floor and corner. The developers believe the robo-guards will provide useful security measures for more expansive spaces like hospitals, museums, data centers, warehouses, office buildings, and schools.

The robo-guards scan an area for anomalies and report to human security guards when they’ve found something that warrants further inspection. The robots could be used in conjunction with a range of stationary security systems and cameras. Down the road, they could be used to map changes in a building, and track tagged assets housed inside.

Currently, the robots can detect situations using data from various sensors, mics and cameras, and events like the sound of a window breaking, a water leak, or the presence of people in the facility.

Cobalt co-founders have raised some seed funding to finance the business, but haven’t disclosed how much they raised, for what kind of stake in their business, or terms. Investors include Bloomberg Beta and Promus Ventures who led the round, Haystack, Subtraction Capital, Comet Labs, and various individual angel investors.

Competing for a share of the physical security market’s annual revenues

The company plans to compete for a share of the physical security market, which is expected to reach $110 billion in annual revenue by 2020, according to Grandview Research forecasts.

Paul Willard, a Subtraction Capital investor, said Cobalt’s plan to build a scalable robot with to which features and functionality can be added incrementally, appealed to investors. Willard said he expects Cobalt will be able to gather a lot of data and train their neural networks so that their robots can autonomously perform more security-related tasks over time.

The company will utilize feedback from early customers to determine what they do and don’t want robots to do, according to Deyle. While he did not have permission to name Cobalt’s pilot customers, the company will have approximately a dozen robots in circulation with major corporate clients this quarter.