The NYPD is deploying a group of robot dogs to assist uniformed officers.
A former member of the New York Police Department is coming back to the force, so brace yourselves for Digidog, the robot dog. The Boston Dynamics remote-controlled robots are meant to save lives and protect humans from harmful situations, according to The Verge. The robots were not well received when they were first introduced to the city in 2020, but NYC Mayor Eric Adams feels that this time will be different.
The purpose of the four-legged robot dogs is to protect and serve the city where human police officers cannot or should not, like inspecting dangerous situations, assessing bomb threats, and overseeing construction sites. Digidog can also double as a public safety patrol robot by finding potentially hazardous materials, investigating suspicious packages, and helping with hostage negotiations. Though we doubt the robot will be anywhere as good as Samuel L. Jackson in The Negotiator.
While the concept of a robot dog may sound cute, Digidog (who sometimes goes as Spot) is anything but the sweet, fluffy dog you may be picturing. The remote-controlled K-9 has four legs that bend backward like a bird, a long neck that can stretch out and retract back into place, and instead of four paws, the robot dog has wheels to speed from place to place. There are three of these robot dogs on display in Times Square, so locals can get a good look at them and see if they’ll do any tricks for treats.
In 2021, New York City pulled the plug on the robot dog project after a lot of negative backlash from the community. Some folks felt that the state was wasting tax-payers money on the project, which cost the NYPD a staggering $750,000 for just two purebred Digidogs.
Other citizens, including the group STOP (Surveillance Technology Oversight Project), felt that the robot dogs could pose a threat to the community’s privacy and safety, mainly due to its built-in camera that could easily spy on New Yorkers. There are also concerns that the robot dogs could be weaponized, causing many to imagine an I, Robot-like scenario where robots take over the world and unleash hell on humans. There are currently no plans to give the dogs any weapons, thankfully.
The fear of seemingly intelligent robots taking over the world is completely justifiable, but there are many pros to using robot dogs instead of real dogs or real police officers. Allowing a robot dog to investigate a bomb threat or a suspicious package gives humans a chance to stay safe and explore the threatening situation from a distance. If things go south and a bomb does go off, then only the robot dog is harmed, which can save countless lives.
And Digidog isn’t the only high-tech device coming to the streets of New York. In addition to the robot dog, a new GPS launcher from StarChase called Guardian HX will allow police to shoot GPS tracking tags onto cars they’re chasing. And lastly, Knightscope has created an intelligence-collecting robot called K5 ASR that will work as a security robot.