DigiDog Loses Job With The NYPD
Back in December of last year, the New York Police Department proudly presented the latest addition to their force – the DigiDog. Weighing in at 70 pounds and designed to easily access areas that could otherwise be deemed inaccessible to force members, DigiDog was hailed as a triumph. That is, until members of the public had their say. Sadly, DigiDog was considered too “creepy” and has now been decommissioned. Making his reign one of the shortest in the force.
What is a DigiDog?
DigiDog is/was a robot, designed to look like a dog. With tensions between the public and serving police officers being frayed (to say the least), it was believed this dog would ease these. However, its main function was to operate where humans couldn’t. For example, it was able to access hard-to-reach locations, or head into a potential bomb scare site. At which point it would have been able to check out the location, as well as provide real-time feedback as to what kind of threat the public might be dealing with.
Indeed, it was already used in one hostile situation. Back in October, it was able to work in a hostage situation. Here, hostages and the gunmen who held them were hungry and in need of food. Yet the armed men were refusing to allow any police officers onto the scene. Instead, the force were able to offer up DigiDog. Strapping food to the robot, they sent this in to the location and were able to ensure everyone’s safety using the two-way speaker system and cameras.
Why Has the Robot Dog Been Decommissioned?
Despite holding a $94,000 contract with Boston Dynamics, police ended up cancelling the introduction of DigiDog on a larger scale. According to NPR, this was “following a backlash tied to calls to cut the police budget. As well as concerns of police militarization and abuses of force.” However, it should be noted that any of the critics were citing reasons that stem from similarities to the show Black Mirror. In the show, creators used a similar design to create a military state for the episode “Metalhead”.
Many activists state that “Spot” the DigiDog was no different to a “robotic surveillance ground drone.” Indeed, critics have been keen to point out that this money could be better spent on housing, healthcare and education, instead. Sadly, DigiDog soon became a target for anti-surveillance campaign groups.
That being said, there have been instances of police using robotic long-range options, such as the DigiDog, in violent measures. In 2016, officers used a similar robot to remotely detonate an explosive. This explosive killed a sniper who had killed 5 police officers. While opinions on whether this was the ‘right’ option differ, depending on who you speak to, it cannot be denied that this is not the actions the robots were designed for.
What Will Happen to the Robots?
For now, the testing of DigiDog will no longer be part of the NYPD’s future plans. However, there are still some police forces seeking to make the most out of this technology. Massachusetts State Police and the Honolulu Police Department are still in a testing phase.
With the robotic dog having a 90-minute battery life and a top speed of 3 miles per hour, it still felt that there is some wiggle room for improvement. Other police departments are also said to be interested in learning more about the DigiDog.
Keith Taylor, a former SWAT team member, says of the DigiDog: “It’s important to question police authority. However, this appears to be pretty straightforward. It is designed to help law enforcement get the information they need without having a deadly firefight, for instance.”