Robot That Escaped Twice Arrested At Political Rally, Russia’s Promobot Under Scrutiny

A Russian robot was arrested last week for annoying metro passengers during a Moscow political rally for far-right-wing candidate Valeriy Kalachev, and it’s not the first time the machine has made headlines.

Before its arrest, the Russian robot, Promobot, was working the Moscow crowd, interacting with voters, and recording their opinions on various political topics. Apparently, that wasn’t OK with local police officers who descended on Promobot and removed it from the area, a company spokesperson told Inverse.

“Police asked to remove the robot away from the crowded area, and even tried to handcuff him. According to eyewitness, the robot did not put up any resistance.”

Russian police were responding to a complaint about a political campaigner disturbing the peace, but when they arrived the found the activist annoying passengers was actually a robot.

Promobot had been campaigning for Kalachev, who is running for a seat in the Duma, a Russian legislative assembly, and party activists assigned the robot to take voluntary surveys of passing voters, the candidate told Science Alert.

“People like robots, they are easy to get along with. There are a few Promobots working for us which are collecting people’s demands and wishes at the moment.”

Promobot made headlines earlier this year when the machine escaped twice from its lab in Russia, stumbled into the street and stopped traffic for an hour when its batteries died. A researcher at Promobot Laboratories in Perm left the lab door open behind him when he left and the robot somehow made it out the door, down the ramp, and into the street 150 feet away before running out of power.

Image by OlegDoroshin / Shutterstock.com

The lab team reprogrammed Promobot, but a few weeks later it tried to escape again, company co-founder Oleg Kivokurtsev told Sputnik News.

“We’ve cross-flashed the memory of the robot with serial number IR77 twice, yet it continues to persistently move towards the exit. We’re considering recycling the IR77 because our clients hiring it might not like that specific feature.”

When the internet learned of the robot’s impending demise, people went crazy and posted comments to the company’s website, demanding the lab “keep IR77 alive,” comparing it to killing a human being, reports Sputnik News.

“Don’t kill him!”

“Why destroy it? You’ve broken my heart. You should’ve given it a name.”

Others, however, accused Promobot labs of faking the whole thing as part of a bizarre promotional campaign to advertise the interactive robots.

The last time Promobot made headlines was in July when a Siberian entrepreneur programmed the robot to play Pokemon Go in a local mall, as coder Ivan Noskov told Inverse in an email.

“We will send it to catch Pokemons in the mall. I expect it to be very interesting.”

Apparently, Promobot wasn’t very good at the video game; it had trouble aiming the Poke Balls as well as a human player would have, but it did illustrate the essence of a robot assistant. The Promobot lab advertises the machines as being able to complete simple tasks and follow a designated routine.

Now, Promobot is back in the spotlight again for its arrest at the Moscow political convention, although there is some debate whether police officers were actually needed on the scene. It’s possible there was some human error involved in the robot’s arrest, maybe the correct permits weren’t filed, or an angry petitioner got fed up.

 (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

As strange as this situation is, it does bring up some valid questions society will need to address soon concerning the laws governing robots and their interactions with humans.

What do you think about Promobot, Russia’s amazing escaping robot?

[Featured Image by VCG/VCG/Getty Images]