New security 'guard' turning heads at Bakersfield Memorial Hospital

Bakersfield Memorial Hospital's security robot patrols the parking lot Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2016, in Bakersfield, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX photo)

Patients at Bakersfield Memorial Hospital are being greeted by a new member of the security team that looks straight out of a "Star Wars" movie.

The white, egg-shaped robot uses sensors to navigate the emergency room parking lot, similar to an automated vacuum. But, it has a lot more features.

Equipped with several cameras, the meandering machine also has a security button that can be pressed to alert human guards. Ken Keller, the hospital's chief operating officer, also said after a software upgrade, people will be able to give it commands in both English and Spanish.

"It's here for three reasons: safety, security and surveillance," said Keller.

For a hospital that has the motto "Hello Humankindness," the roaming robots would seem to contradict that mentality. But, Keller said with the robots performing simple tasks, it frees up time for human guards.

"It's here to augment our security officers and give them the ability to be more hands on with patients and families," said Keller.

Memorial Hospital is one of four in the Dignity Health network that have rolled out the robots for a test period. Keller said they got theirs last Wednesday and took several days to set it up.

As of now, it does not have a name. The hospital is having a contest to choose one. To submit a suggestion, post it on the hospital Facebook page or website.

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