NYPD re-adopts robot dogs – Reuters

NYPD parted ways with Boston Dynamics two years ago after quadruple public outcry

The New York Police Department has brought back Digidog, the four-legged robot from Boston Dynamics that inspired an episode of the dystopian TV series Black Mirror, as well as a larger, rounder surveillance robot called K5 ASR, revealed Mayor Eric Adams at a press conference in Times Square on Tuesday.

Robot dogs will only be used during “Hostage situations, bomb threats, counter-terrorism situations, things where the best course of action will be to send a Digidog first before a human being”, NYPD Department Chief Jeff Maddrey told reporters, calling them “rescue device.”

The dogs are equipped with cameras and two-way communications, but arming them is against Boston Dynamics’ terms of service. The city bought two for $750,000, but “we used the confiscation money”, an NYPD officer reassured reporters.

Another new NYPD acquisition, K5 ASR, is a “fully autonomous outdoor security robot” used to collect information. Maddrey compared it to a Roomba robot vacuum. Two K5s present at the presser seemed to be suffering from technical difficulties, stopping for a minute before setting off again. Finally, a disembodied voice pledged to “to make things progress.”

None of the robots will be equipped with facial recognition technology, NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell said, insisting the deployment would be “transparent, consistent and always done in collaboration with the people we serve.”

“I believe the technology is there; we can’t be afraid of it,” Mayor Adams told the audience, explaining that his predecessor, Bill deBlasio, was wrong to retire the robot dog due to public outcry. “A few loud people objected to it and we took a step back – that’s not how I operate.”

The former NYPD Digidog was decommissioned in 2021, several months earlier, after residents and local politicians raised questions about safety and liability, as well as costs. One advisor even presented a “Act Against Killer Robots” in hopes of stopping the robot-dog episode of Black Mirror from ever coming to life.

These concerns remain at the forefront of opposition to Adams’ technology-enhanced policing efforts. “The NYPD Turns Bad Science Fiction Into Terrible Policing”, Albert Fox Cahn, executive director of the Surveillance Technology Oversight project, said in a statement after the press conference.

Adams insisted that community leaders would be part of the decision-making process about whether they wanted Digidog in their neighborhoods. However, when a spectator asked if the dog would go “back to the pound” if he didn’t want them in a community, he answered in the negative. “Digidog came out of the pound” he boasted.

You can share this story on social media:

Leave a Comment