Last week, the NYPD sent a robotic dog to an active crime scene in the Bronx, where a home invasion was underway in a Wakefield area apartment building. The creepy footage of the bright-blue four-legged robot casually walking down the street raised our collective hackles. What exactly was it doing on the scene? And are we all about to enter a real-life episode of Black Mirror?
Predictably, the NYPD is tight-lipped about its newest robotic toy (as it is about virtually everything else it does). But here’s what we know so far.
What exactly is this thing?
It’s Spot, a 70-pound robotic dog being tested by the NYPD. The department nicknamed the particular one it’s using “Digidog.”
Whose idea was this??
Boston Dynamics. The company has been around since the ’90s, when it spun out of Marc Raibert’s research at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory on advanced robots. Boston Dynamics has developed all sorts of robots, including some that can move boxes and have humanlike agility. It has also developed a few for military use with funding from DARPA, a defense agency that often funds a lot of tech and innovation, including, decades ago, the creation of the internet itself. In December 2020, Hyundai bought the company from Softbank (which had bought it from Google in 2017) for $1.1 billion. The company introduced a Spot prototype in 2015, intending to turn it into a commercial product, and started selling them in summer 2020.
What does it do?
Spot can walk and navigate space via remote control and can be programmed to follow a specific route. It doesn’t just work on flat asphalt: The robot dog can walk up stairs and curbs and traverse grass and gravel. It can carry about 30 pounds of equipment, and, eerily enough, it can even dance. An arm upgrade, allowing it to open doors and the like, has just become available.
Can it chase someone down?
Spot’s maximum speed is 1.6 meters per second (roughly 3.5 miles per hour, the average walking speed of a human). So if you’re concerned about a Black Mirror kind of incident —and particularly if you remember a 2017 episode called “Metalhead,” in which a robot dog chases a speeding van, crashes through its back window (while it’s still in motion!), and obliterates the driver’s head with one bash —rest assured that you can probably outrun Spot. The Wildcat, another robot built by Boston Dynamics, can run about 20 miles per hour. Good thing this one isn’t wandering around. Read Full Article >