Police in Massachusetts have been quietly testing a highly-advanced robot dog alongside officers.
And these terminator-like robot dogs are so terrifying that civil liberties group made a public records request to robotics firm Boston Dynamics after the Massachusetts State Police published a video demonstration of the Spot robot dog.
It is believed the robotic dogs, which are capable of opening doors and navigating obstacles, have already been used during live incidents.
“All too often, the deployment of these technologies happens faster than our social, political, or legal systems react,” the ACLU said in a statement shared with TechCrunch.
“We urgently need more transparency from government agencies, who should be upfront with the public about their plans to test and deploy new technologies.“
A spokesperson for the Massachusetts State Police said the robot was being used as a “mobile remote observation device” to monitor suspicious activity.
“Right now, our primary interest is sending the robot into situations where you want to collect information in an environment where it’s too dangerous to send a person, but not actually physically interacting with the space,” the spokesperson said.
The lease agreement between Boston Dynamics and the police reportedly includes the condition that it is not used to “physically harm or intimidate people.”
Spot Dog Robot
Boston Dynamics announced earlier this year that it would begin selling the canine-inspired machines at some point in 2019, though no date or price was provided.
The product page for the Spot describes it as a “nimble robot” capable of operating autonomously and travelling for up to 90 minutes at a time.
Promotional materials for the Spot robots show them being used in a variety of roles and environments, ranging from assistants at construction sites, to remote security guards.
“There’s a remarkable number of construction companies we’re talking to,” Boston Dynamics chief executive Marc Raibert said at the time.
“But we have some other applications that are very promising, [such as] in hostile environments where the cost of having people there is high.“
The robots have frequently been described as “creepy” and “terrifying”, though Mr Raibert claimed that they have been misrepresented. In a recent demonstration of the technology, he said it “really bothers me” when they are referred to in this way.
It “really bothers me” when people describe his robots as terrifying, says Boston Dynamics CEO Mark Raibert pic.twitter.com/88VwyGL1XY— Christopher Mims ? (@mims) October 21, 2019
Cops have long had dogs, and robots, to help them do their jobs. And now, they have a robot dog.
Massachusetts State Police is the first law enforcement agency in the country to use Boston Dynamics’ dog-like robot, called Spot.
While the use of robotic technology is not new for state police, the temporary acquisition of Spot — a customizable robot some have called “terrifying” — is raising questions from civil rights advocates about how much oversight there should be over police robotics programs.
The state’s bomb squad had Spot on loan from the Waltham-based Boston Dynamics for three months starting in August until November, according to records obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts and reviewed by WBUR.
The documents do not reveal a lot of details on the robot dog’s exact use, but a state police spokesman said Spot, like the department’s other robots, was used as a “mobile remote observation device” to provide troopers with images of suspicious devices or potentially hazardous locations, like where an armed suspect might be hiding.
“Robot technology is a valuable tool for law enforcement because of its ability to provide situational awareness of potentially dangerous environments,” state police spokesman David
Well this robot dog really does look creepy! It behaves like a dog, walks like a dog and soon will be able to shoot with its head. A terminator dog! [Yahoo]
Is anyone else thinking of the Mechanical Hound in Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451? Only less 4 legs and a needle…