Earlier this week, the New Zealand Police Department’s latest recruit started her first day on the job. But she won’t be out taking care of the bad guys. She will be stationed inside a department helping bridge the community with staff.
Did I mention she isn’t even human?
Ella is New Zealand’s first Artificial Human cop. She is a humanoid virtual assistant that is programmed to interact with individuals face-to-face. The AI cop with use real-time animation and emulate conversations with staff members and visitors to the station. Her name stands for Electronic Lifelike Assistant.
The development of the trial cost police $373,000, and a single unit can cost between $12,000 and $15,000.
Smiling and blinking from her screen, Ella, created as a mix of 26 different people, can relay some of the station’s assistance for visitors. She is the brainchild of project manager Erin Greally, but she became manufactured by two New Zealand companies. Intela AI and Soul Machines were able to program Ella to carry out empathetic conversations using voice, tone, and body language.
Ella’s chief duties there will be welcoming visitors to the building, telling staff that they’ve arrived for an appointment, and directing them to collect their visitor passes. She can also talk to visitors about specific issues, such as the force’s non-emergency telephone number and police vetting procedures for particular topics.
Ella is on a three-month trial run at the Molesworth Street station, and just like every member of the force, her job will have a full evaluation.
“Her capabilities are basic at this stage as she is a ‘proof of concept.’ But we see some real benefits of digital person technology if we can equip the AI with more knowledge and capabilities, and it can learn from more interactions,” stated Mike Bush, New Zealand Police Commissioner.
But don’t worry. Ella will not be taking jobs away from humans. And she will not be out patrolling the streets of Wellington just yet. But Commissioner Bush thinks that if Ella does a good job, the AI could carry a wide range of new responsibilities in the future.
“This is to complement our presence in the community.”
More likely than not, New Zealand citizens could be seeing Ella’s smiling face on a kiosk in every police station in the near future. While she may not have all the answers people seek yet, as an AI, she will continue to learn and grow as citizens use her services.
New Zealand’s force will also provide general help kiosks in three stations. These machines can answer commonly asked questions, report a crime, or link to someone at the call center. The kiosks will have closed-circuit television monitoring and other alarms built into them.
While many might be surprised at the news of an Artificial Human working at the police department, cops all around the world have been using enhanced technology. Facial recognition has received widespread usage to assist in the identification of criminals in public places and crowds.
One perfect example of this technology at work is in China, where Chinese officers were able to arrest a person in a sea of people inside a stadium. Without AI technology, this task would have been impossible.
Similar to Ella in New Zealand, police in Dubai have introduced their robotic officers. Stationed around hot tourist destinations, these AI can perform a limited set of capabilities. They can allow people to report crimes, speak six different languages, and transmit live images back to headquarters.
The main goal with these AI tasks to help humans do their job quicker and to a higher rate of completion. If an AI can be set up in a station and assist visitors with basic questions and tasks, that frees up officers to handle crimes and catch criminals.
Down the road, do not be surprised to see Ella or other AI police officers roaming the streets. But that’s a topic for another day.