NYC returns robotic dog

While robotic assistants are usually welcomed by law enforcement agencies that have used the remote controlled machines for search and rescue, bomb removal and hostage situations, New York City’s “Digidog” has been sent back to its former owner after complaints from city residents.

The four-legged Spot robot built by Boston Dynamics was first sent to New York last year, but following its response to a home invasion and deployment to a public housing community, residents began charactering the device as “creepy” and an example of aggressive policing of the city’s poor.

In an interview with The New York Times, John Miller, the Police Department’s deputy commissioner for intelligence and counterterrorism, said Digidog had been returned to Boston Dynamics ahead of schedule because it had become “a ‘target’ for people who he said had improperly used it to fuel arguments about race and surveillance.”

The 70-pound, nearly 3-foot tall Spot comes with a tablet for remote control, 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi or dual-band networking, rechargeable battery, lights, cameras and software for autonomous missions. It can carry up to 14kg of equipment.  Accessories include a robotic arm, panoramic, pan-tilt-zoom and thermal cameras as well as LIDAR and edge CPU and GPU processors.

The city was evaluating the device under terms of a lease originally scheduled to run through August.

According to the Times article, Boston Dynamics said about 500 of its robotic dogs have been deployed worldwide, primarily for inspection of utilities, at construction sites or in dangerous commercial settings, improving worker safety and enabling the gathering of critical data. Only four robotic dogs were deployed by law enforcement agencies, the company spokesman said.

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