The NYPD is set to deploy a 70 pound robotic dog made by Boston Dynamics that is capable of opening doors and moving objects out of its path.
In fact, the ‘dog’, called Digidog, has already been used to apprehend a suspect, according to a report by ABC 7 News.
“This dog is going to save lives, protect people, and protect officers and that’s our goal,” NYPD Technical Assistance Response Unit Inspector (TARU) Frank Digiacomo said.
“This robot is able to use its artificial intelligence to navigate things, very complex environments,” NYPD TARU’s Deepu John added.
The robot dogs have been in development for years now, but we are starting to see them being embraced by law enforcement.
Indeed, this latest development will raise concerns that the machine could be used to enforce social distancing and mask wearing, as witnessed earlier this year in Singapore:
One of the creepiest and most dystopian things I've seen since the pandemic began: a terrifying camera-equipped remote-controlled robot patrols Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park in Singapore to — for now — warn about social distancing. Look at the fear. Story: https://t.co/12QfT1mcyZ pic.twitter.com/hBGUhmC7N7
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) May 8, 2020
The same ‘SPOT’ dog was deployed last year by Massachusetts State Police in live action situations to provide troopers with images of suspicious devices or reveal where suspects were hiding.
Video of MA State Police testing the dogs shows one of the robots opening a door, mirroring footage released previously by Boston Dynamics.
Boston Dynamics routinely releases slick videos of the machines in action:
The AI on the dogs is open, so it can be customized, and the machines can be fitted with weapons. Along with the lease to law enforcement, that is enough for Kade Crockford, director of the technology for liberty program at the ACLU of Massachusetts to issue a warning.
“We just really don’t know enough about how the state police are using this,” Crockford said. “And the technology that can be used in concert with a robotic system like this is almost limitless in terms of what kinds of surveillance and potentially even weaponization operations may be allowed.”
“We really need some law and some regulation to establish a floor of protection to ensure that these systems can’t be misused or abused in the government’s hands,” Crockford said, adding “And no, a terms of service agreement is just insufficient.”
The robot dogs inspired an infamous episode of Black Mirror in 2017, where machines very similar looking to the SPOT, but more advanced, were depicted hunting down and killing people after the unexplained collapse of human society.