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7 Oct, 2022 14:58

Robotics firms make pacifist pledge

Boston Dynamics and five other companies said they will “carefully review” customers’ intentions
Robotics firms make pacifist pledge

Six major international robotics companies, including Hyundai-owned Boston Dynamics have made a public promise to prevent the weaponization of their creations and urged the others in the industry to make the same pledge.

In an open letter on Thursday, the manufacturers explained that they felt “renewed urgency” to voice their position because attempts made in recent months “to weaponize commercially available robots” had prompted public concern.

We pledge that we will not weaponize our advanced-mobility general-purpose robots or the software we develop that enables advanced robotics and we will not support others to do so,” the firms said, adding that they will “carefully review” their customers “intended applications.

The group called on “every organization, developer, researcher, and user” to vow not to “build, authorize, support, or enable the attachment of weaponry” to the robots.

At the same time, the group which also includes Agility Robotics, ANYbotics, Clearpath Robotics, Open Robotics and Unitree Robotics, made it clear they do not rule out the use of the high-tech machines by government agencies for law enforcement and defense purposes.

Boston Dynamics has recently been under increased scrutiny amid attempts by the New York Police Department and the French military to use its robots, including the famous quadruped Spot, for reconnaissance.

Commenting on French exercises in 2021 that included the Boston Dynamics creation, the company said it was “not clear on the exact scope of this engagement.” Meanwhile, the organizers of the drills described the tests as a preparation for the “challenges of tomorrow,” which include the “robotization of the battlefield.”

Speculation about potential weaponization is further fueled by the fact that its program was developed almost entirely by funding from the Pentagon, with one of its earliest robots, BigDog, designed purely for military purposes.

The CEO of another US firm, Ghost Robotics, which is not among the open letter’s signatories, admitted earlier this year that he does not know what the US military does with its equipment.

We’re not going to dictate to our government customers how they use the robots. We do draw the line on where they’re sold,” Jiren Parikh said in an interview with TechCrunch, clarifying they are only sold to the US and “allied governments.”

According to The Verge, the company’s bots are being tested to patrol military bases and the US border with Mexico. The outlet also claims that arms manufacturers fitted the Ghost Robotics’ machines with guns.