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12 Dec, 2020 02:32

‘You have 15 seconds to comply’: NYPD says new robotic cop dog will ‘save lives’ as netizens warn of sci-fi dystopia

‘You have 15 seconds to comply’: NYPD says new robotic cop dog will ‘save lives’ as netizens warn of sci-fi dystopia

The NYPD has unveiled a new dog-like robot it says it will use to fight crime and “save lives,” but some netizens see the gadget as another step toward high-tech tyranny, reminiscent of dystopias from ‘RoboCop’ to ‘Black Mirror’.

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.

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.

READ MORE: ‘Shoot on sight’: Boston Dynamics robot dog spotted out on city street triggers fear — and defensiveness

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. 

“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.”

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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.

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.

READ MORE: Had enough dystopia yet? Boston Dynamics puts its robot dog ‘Spot’ up FOR SALE

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.”

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