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15 Apr, 2021 07:22

New Yorkers freak out as NYPD deploys Digidog, despite city’s project to ban ‘weaponized robots’

New Yorkers freak out as NYPD deploys Digidog, despite city’s project to ban ‘weaponized robots’

A $75,000 robot dog seen leaving a Manhattan housing project has outraged city residents who heard less than a month ago that the pricey Boston Dynamics bots would be banned from being used as weapons.

The dog was seen exiting the housing project on Monday with a group of human police officers, who acted almost subservient to the shiny blue metal creature while escorting it out of the Kips Bay building. While the New York Police Department insisted the faux-canine had not played an “active role” in the operation, which allegedly involved removing an armed man from an apartment belonging to a woman and her baby, its appearance seemed to cast a spell over the assembled residents.

One resident, tenant organization head Melanie Aucello, rushed back home after receiving a handful of calls about “police in the building” and was wildly disturbed by what she saw there – not just the dog, but its effects on people.

Kids are going to the dog, like it’s cute. I’m actually horrified they are letting this happen.

While the NYPD ran a handful of tests of the robots in recent years, delighted enough with the results to buy at least one of the dogs, the menacing creatures popped up in ‘real life’ situations, showing up in February at a home invasion crime scene and arriving that same month in a basement where a gunman was believed to be hiding. No animals or people were said to be harmed during the testing.

The NYPD insisted that it “has been using robots since the 1970s to save lives in hostage situations & hazmat incidents,” so it wants Digidog to serve these particular purposes.

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

However, New York City Council member Ben Kallos hinted he didn’t trust Digidog’s capabilities to remain at “bark” level when it was oh so tempting to “bite.” The councilmember put forward a measure singling out the hair-raising cop-bot called the ‘No Killer Robots Act’, clearly aimed at the use of Boston Dynamics’ toys. A previous resolution passed last June – the ‘Public Oversight of Surveillance Technology Act’, aimed at keeping citizens informed about what kind of disturbing capabilities the city’s preposterously well-funded police department would be rolling out in the near future. 

“No one wants a future where our city looks and feels like a ‘Black Mirror’ episode,” Kallos said, referencing the increasingly nonfictional killer K-9s from the Netflix show’s episode ‘Metal Head’, said to be inspired by Boston Dynamics’ creations. The No Killer Robots Act bans the city from not only using weaponized robots, but threatening to do so. Additionally, using bots in a way “likely to cause death or serious injury” is off-limits – an action this week’s appearance at the housing project likely violated, as one can hear shocked onlookers making nervous jokes about Star Wars character R2-D2 and presumably sighing with relief as they observe the device is not after them.

“All of our buyers, without exception, must agree that Spot will not be used to harm or intimidate people or animals, as a weapon or configured to hold a weapon,” Boston Dynamics CEO Robert Playter said in the past.

Still, the dog is equipped with AI, meaning it has the possibility (however slim its developers claim) of going rogue, and features up-to-the-minute tracking technology including cameras and sensors. All that’s needed to turn it into a killer weapon is a few modifications. Given the NYPD’s resources, one can imagine that they could easily afford to outfit a few of these into ruthless creatures.

Even some of those who didn’t seem to fear the potentially deadly pooch were upset because of what they insisted was a ludicrous amount of money to spend on something so clearly designed to terrorize a populace already beside itself with anger and fear over police violence.

And a few mayoral candidates took it as an opportunity to grandstand, with Democratic candidate Scott Stringer declaring “as mayor, we will invest in people, not police dogs.”

Also on rt.com NY councilor wants to keep ‘weaponized robot’ dogs out of police hands after 'successful' tests

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