A few weeks ago, the NYPD caused a number of heads to turn when a new piece of technology rolled out of a New York City housing project. Reporters were filming a suspect being led away in handcuffs, which was nothing unusual. But moments later, a police officer emerged who was followed by one of those nightmarish-looking robotic dogs from Boston Dynamics. Named “Digidog,” the machine dutifully followed the officer across the sidewalk and down a set of stairs toward the street. Video of the dog rapidly went viral, prompting social media discussions about dystopian futures being upon us and all the rest.
Then the backlash began. The Mayor issued a statement saying that the police should “rethink” their strategy of employing robotic dogs. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez had already criticized the use of the robot back in February when it was used to help end a home invasion-hostage situation, referring to it as a “robotic surveillance ground drone” for some reason. She came out yet again, criticizing the use of the robot and that seemed to be the icing on the cake. The contract allowing the NYPD to lease the robot has been canceled and Digidog is on his way back to the shop.
The NYPD will return “Digidog” — the robotic police dog that sent tongues wagging and local politicians howling, The Post confirmed on Wednesday.
The department said it had ended a contract with Boston Dynamics to lease the four-legged robo-cop.
“The contract has been terminated and the dog will be returned,” a spokesperson said.
It came after a video of the programmable pooch patrolling a Manhattan housing project went viral, sparking backlash and drawing comparisons to the dystopic TV series “Black Mirror.”
Anyone who has been following this topic here over the past several years already knows where I stand on the entire subject of Artificial Intelligence and robots. One of these days, when the AI finally “wakes up” and the robot revolution begins, well… let’s just say this makes my top three list of the ways that humanity eventually wipes itself out. But at least for now, that robot horse has already long since left the barn. These robots are here and it’s just a fact of life in the 21st century.
The objections being raised about the police department’s robot dog cover all of the social justice themes you’re used to hearing. It’s “racist” to use them to patrol communities of color and it’s another sign of oppression. It’s basically just another excuse to verbally attack the cops.
But there are a couple of things to note about Digidog that put the lie to those complaints. First of all, the robot has no weapons of any type and it isn’t even designed to allow the attachment of weapons. Its maximum speed would allow almost anyone to outrun it unless they were on crutches, in a wheelchair, or using a walker. I suppose it might be able to injure someone if it stepped on your foot or ran into you, but that’s about it.
What it is equipped with are cameras, microphones, and a speaker. It allows the police to virtually move into dangerous situations without endangering the safety of officers and even conduct negotiations. That’s why it was used in the hostage situation back in February. It can also go into areas where it’s suspected that there might be an explosive device. As long as it doesn’t “wake up” at some point, it seems like a pretty useful tool.
The cost wasn’t even all that much. The contract to lease the robot through August came at a price tag of $94,000. Considering that the budget for the NYPD runs into the billions, that’s a drop in the bucket. But now, thanks to complaints about Digidog being used “to fuel arguments about race and surveillance,” along with hearing elected officials calling it “creepy and alienating” or just plain “evil,” the cops will go back to doing business as usual. If AOC and her friends want to chalk this up as a win, that’s up to them. But it was a really stupid fight to pick if you ask me.
Here’s a video of Digidog leaving the New York City housing project mentioned above. It was taken by a pedestrian not involved in the police activity. And yes, even I will admit that it looks a little “creepy” at first.
Nah they really got these robot police dogs in NYC. This is wild pic.twitter.com/iG7CTPFevH
— THEE DON❤️🔥 (@1800SPOILED) April 12, 2021