Dubbed the “Digidog,” the New York City Police Department showed off its new K-9 automoton to local media earlier this week, boasting of its sophisticated artificial intelligence system and a series of cameras and sensors, which can be used to get a close-up, real-time look at dangerous situations before sending in flesh-and-blood officers.
“This dog is going to save lives, protect people, and protect officers and that’s our goal,” NYPD Technical Assistance Response Unit Inspector Frank Digiacomo told ABC7 New York.
#Exclusive Now that’s some #dog! 4 legged, futuristic, first responder is helping NYPD w the most dangerous jobs. Starting at 4, Digidog, wait until you see what it can do! @abc7ny @NYPDnews @nypd_taru @nypd_esu #abc7ny #crime #technology #protect #officers #police #k9 #nyc pic.twitter.com/ewDjjPZkfr
— Kemberly Richardson (@kemrichardson7) December 10, 2020
Developed by robotics firm Boston Dynamics, the robodog weighs in at 70 pounds, can run at a max speed of over three miles per hour and can even scale flights of stairs with its metal appendages. While it can use an AI system to navigate complex environments, the device is mostly operated by remote-control, for now.
Despite the department’s confidence in its new tool, many on the internet had misgivings about the technology, seeing disturbing parallels to fictional dystopias, in which automated police bots dispense on-the-spot justice by way of algorithm.
Black Mirror in real life…here it comes! pic.twitter.com/1N18xO7Agf
— Israel (@IsraelDLazo) December 11, 2020
This is the first step towards the Mechanical Hound from Fahrenheit 451. pic.twitter.com/6w8pLlkfiz
— Runa Dobie Pup (@Runa_Pup) December 11, 2020
“The robot is so effective that it doesn’t even need to shout ‘hands up’ before summarily executing an unarmed suspect,” one commenter joked. “Then, its sophisticated onboard software preemptively throws out the surviving family’s civil court cases.”
Another observer, meanwhile, mused about whether the machine is “hackable,” while some voiced more realistic concerns about the cost of the robotic dog, which goes for a cool $74,500 a pop.
is it hackable? from Boston Dynamic? so it begins.
— Will $ (@MunnyWhiskey) December 11, 2020
How much did it cost? Did you know that NYC shelter populations hit 20,000 this week?
— jon ben-menachem (@jbenmenachem) December 11, 2020
Defund the police. They don't need expensive toys like this.
— Eschatologist (temporary name) (@pigfilth1) December 11, 2020
While the NYPD only gave a close-up look at the Digidog earlier this week, the department has reportedly deployed the ‘bot before, using it to respond after a shooting in Brooklyn in October. The Massachusetts State Police has also tested the dog in trials, according to documents obtained last year by the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts and a Boston NPR affiliate, though all the ways it was used remain unclear.
Originally named “Spot” by a development team at Boston Dynamics, the dog-bot was put up for sale earlier this year, with units available to any company – or government agency – willing to put up the cash. Though a spokesman for Boston Dynamics has assured that the firm would enforce a “code of use” for the device – prohibiting “weapon attachments” or other functions that could “harm or intimidate” people – that has done little to quell concerns about potential misuse. A major buy-out of Boston Dynamics by the Hyundai Motor Group on Friday, moreover, could raise additional fears about the direction of the state-of-the-art tech, and whether the new owners will look to enforce the same “code of use.”
Think your friends would be interested? Share this story!