Space-Age Security Comes to Malibu

A security robot outside Chipotle in the Malibu Village Shopping Center

A cheerful-looking new employee has been quietly working security at the Malibu Village Shopping Center. While undetected by those more focused on the beach or grabbing a bite to eat, his bright orange, white and yellow uniform is making a bold fashion statement. His sartorial style represents a mashup between R2D2 from Star Wars and a creature dreamed up from the local Malibu surf lifestyle clothing store Aviator Nation. 

In case you haven’t seen him? yet… it’s a robot. Spokespeople for the shopping center have not confirmed its gender and The Malibu Times has so far been unable to check under its hood, so for this article, the machine will be referred to as “it.” 

The robot—currently monikered “Bu”—has been on the job, 24/7, for the past two weeks. His approachable design and cheerful paint job suggest a benevolent, hi-tech augmentation to the center’s security team that some argue is a necessity after a couple of robberies in the area. Some may recall an incident two years ago where, in a high-profile smash-and-grab at the now-shuttered Westime, crooks brazenly made off with well over a million dollars’ worth of Rolex watches in broad daylight. 

Spokespeople for the Malibu Village confirm the zippy robot is a surveillance tool to “aid in security in order to keep our community safe. 

“Its role is intended to assist officers, improve response times and keep officers/the public out of harm’s way,” an email explained. Bu can also keep tabs on license plates and spot trespassers on the property. And zippy it is, with mobility clocked at two to three miles per hour. While the robot does not have the capability to move backward, it can reroute itself if there is an obstacle in its patrol route. You might even hear it before you see it, as Bu emits a space-age soundtrack from its speakers that can also be used to make “basic property announcements,” according to the Malibu Village public relations team. 

Bu is what’s known as a K5 security robot. While the first in Malibu, it’s certainly not the first in California, and has not been without controversy. The same manufacturer’s device was deployed last year in San Francisco to patrol a branch of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA). The robot’s mission was to deter homeless people from sleeping or loitering near its building, but the 400-pound machine angered the local community and was removed—after it was knocked over and smeared with feces and covered in barbeque sauce. 

Malibu Village officials are hoping Bu is welcomed as an aid to safeguard shoppers. They’ve playfully touted the robot’s love of mint chocolate chip gelato from Grom and, when asked if Bu has a union job or takes vacations, answered, “With our onsite docking station, [it’s] got plenty of time to rest and recharge (literally). And it doesn’t get much better than living at the beach in Malibu!”