Why are policemen allowed to swing firearms

No Terminator: Police robots in New York are not supposed to get weapons

After a viral video, the New York police and their robot dog have probably involuntarily become a topic of conversation in local politics. The reason for this is the concern that police robots can also be equipped with weapons in the future.

From Adriano D’Adamo

Humorous, sarcastic, and yet concerned: The comments below a video showing the New York police using a Boston Dynamics robot dog range from pop culture references Terminator, Black Mirror and Exorcist to jokes about the tangled cables that the police gave the machine. But there is also a serious concern: Many are wondering what will happen if the police in the future not only equip robots with cameras or lamps, but also with weapons. In order to prevent exactly that, Ben Kallos is now campaigning. He is a member of the New York City Council.

He calls for the so-called POST ACT (Public Oversight of Surveillance Technology) to be expanded so that robotic dogs cannot be equipped with weapons when deployed. These legal regulations have so far required the police, among other things, to disclose the surveillance technology they use and to give themselves rules for its use. Kallos would like to have this project approved by the city council as soon as possible in order to prevent possible regulatory loopholes from being exploited.

This video of the New York police's “Digidog” is now causing political debates.

"The technology to equip robots with weapons already exists and to prevent that we must act now before the technology breaks the law," writes Ben Kallos on his website. There is currently a global debate as to whether and how remote-controlled or autonomous weapon systems should or should not be used.

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The robot, dubbed “Digidog” by the police, is actually called Spot and is manufactured by the Boston Dynamics company. The use of the $ 75,000 machine is tied to conditions of use that, at least from the manufacturer's point of view, take the wind out of the sails of the debate. Because according to the conditions of Boston Dynamics, their robots may not be equipped with weapons or used for their use, which Robert Playter, the CEO of Boston Dynamics, told the American Wired now emphasized again.

The artists and operators of the website also got this company policy Spot’s Rampage can already be felt. For a live stream, they equipped the dog robot with a paintball gun and let it shoot with paintballs. Boston Dynamics distanced itself from this stream and condemned this kind of use of their robot as harmful and violent.


Boston Dynamics (BostonDynamics)

In addition to police operations, Spot also finds its place in the fight against the corona pandemic. In Singapore it is used to remind passers-by in public places of the social distancing rules. He also helps out doctors and nurses in various hospitals. In order to remotely treat patients with corona symptoms, Spot acts as a mobile tablet holder, while the doctors can help the patient via video transmission.

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Cover picture: Boston Dynamics