NY councilor wants to keep ‘weaponized robot’ dogs out of police hands after ‘successful’ tests

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One New York councilor wants to ban armed robotic dogs, after the NYPD successfully trialed one of the four-legged devices at a crime scene. However, the dogs’ manufacturer insists its devices are friendly.

Introduced last week by Council Member Ben Kallos, the No Killer Robots Act would “prohibit the New York City Police Department (NYPD) from using or threatening to use robots armed with a weapon.” Furthermore, it would prohibit the use of robots in any way “likely to cause death or serious physical injury.”

“No one wants a future where our city looks and feels like a ‘Black Mirror’ episode,” said Kallos, a Democrat. “The technology to arm robots already exists, and in order to prevent anything like that from happening we have to act now before the technology gets ahead of the laws.”

The NYPD hasn’t deployed squads of killer canine androids on the streets of the Big Apple, but it did successfully trial a Boston Dynamics robot it calls ‘Digidog’ at a home invasion crime scene in February, several months after promising that the device would fight crime and “save lives.”




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Using its artificial intelligence, as well as a sophisticated array of on-board cameras and sensors, the dog can be sent into dangerous situations before putting officers’ lives on the line. The robot, named ‘Spot’ by Boston Dynamics, was also tested by the NYPD in October, when it was sent into a basement to locate a gunman hiding after a shootout.

If passed, Kallos’ law would be the US’ first local ordinance banning the use of armed robots by police officers. However, Boston Dynamics insists he has nothing to worry about. When the company first put the dog up for sale last year, a spokesman reassured reporters that its terms of use would prohibit it being used to “harm or intimidate” people.

That hasn’t stopped people reacting with apprehension to sightings of the beast. It was notably deployed in Singapore last year to enforce social distancing with recorded warning messages, and was seen on the streets of one Canadian city, where it snapped a photo of a curious bystander. In both cases, witnesses and online commenters were less than enthusiastic about the dogs’ presence. “How many years away do you think we are from being hunted down by Boston Dynamics robot dogs for protesting the government?” one Twitter user posted at the time.




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While New York’s police may not be able to terrify the population with tooled-up K-9 troops, Florida’s Tyndall Air Force Base announced in November that it would be one of the first military sites to deploy robot dogs similar in appearance to Boston Dynamics’ bot (though actually manufactured by Ghost Robotics, a Philadelphia company that makes a similar model). 

A press release stated that the bionic beasts would not be used to replace regular military working dogs, but would be used as a “force multiplier for enhanced situational awareness by patrolling areas that aren’t desirable for human beings and vehicles.”

Spot has also been fitted with a radiation sensor and deployed to Chernobyl, the site of a catastrophic 1986 nuclear accident. The devices, which retail for $74,500, have been used for a variety of tasks seen as undesirable for humans to perform, from enforcing social distancing in Singapore to livening up a spectator-free stadium at a Japanese baseball game.

Boston Dynamics’ dogs reportedly inspired an episode of dystopian TV series ‘Black Mirror’, in which a four-legged robot dog programmed to search and destroy hunts a terrified human to her death – not that they needed much help being seen as disturbing.

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