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Boston Dynamics’ Digidog has not been the best boy and the NYPD is sending it back

This all seems a little too iRobot to me.

boston dynamics digidog
Image: FNTV

The New York Police Department has made the decision to discontinue its trial use of a Boston Dynamics robot dog, Digidog. The robot was met with negative feedback regarding the nature of robotic policing.

The department began the trial of the nicknamed Digidog in 2020 and claimed that the robot would save lives and protect people. Since then, the robot has only been used a handful of times, and mostly as a scout of sorts. Digidog is fixed with a camera that was typically used to scout potentially dangerous situations.

Robots have been relatively common in the NYPD over the last few decades. In February, the department tweeted about how “The NYPD has been using robots since the 1970s to save lives in hostage situations & hazmat incidents. This model of robot is being tested to evaluate its capabilities against other models in use by our emergency service unit and bomb squad.”

Despite this, Digidog was not received the way the department would have liked. Deputy commissioner for intelligence and counterterrorism for the NYPD, John Miller said that Digidog had become the target of misinformation, claiming people were being misled about the use of the robot.

He told The New York Times that, “People had figured out the catchphrases and the language to somehow make this evil.”

Among Digidog’s biggest naysayers has been New York City Councilman Ben Kallos. Kallos claims that the robot represents the “militarization of police.” Kallos was a key player in the termination of the department’s contract with Boston Dynamics, issuing a subpoena which ultimately resulted in the contract’s termination.

Kallos claims that the NYPD should be moving in another direction. Speaking with The New York Times, he believes that officers need to become more involved in the community, saying:

“At a time where we should be having more beat cops on the street, building relationships with residents, they’re actually headed in another direction in trying to replace them with robots.”

Other high-profile names have been quick to criticize the NYPD for its trial of Digidog. NYC Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez spoke out against the robot in a tweet, saying:

“Now robotic surveillance ground drones are being deployed for testing on low-income communities of color with under-resourced schools”

Though many people did see the deployment of Digidog as reckless and aggressive policing, it is important to know that the robot was not weaponized in any way. In fact, this model robot has never been weaponized, and doing so would go against the terms of service developed by the robot’s creators, Boston Dynamics.

Although there may be some confusion about what Digidog’s true purpose is, it is clear to see that people are not completely comfortable with robotic policing. I have to say, while I understand there are some benefits to robots when it comes to policing, the whole thing feels a little too apocalyptic to me, and it seems like I’m not the only person who feels this way.

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