A New Version of Paw Prints in Robotics
“Robotic Dogs – For use in Dangerous Situations”
Over time, we’ve grown reliant on automated technology. It’s found in almost every part of our lives, from automatic doors to factory line robots, to business process automation.
Although the science of robotics only came about in the 20th century, the history of robots and human-invented automation has a much lengthier past. The ancient Greek engineer Hero of Alexandria produced two texts, Pneumatica and Automata, that testify to the existence of hundreds of different kinds of “wonder” machines capable of automated movement.
Of course, the evolution of robots in the 20th and 21st centuries has advanced radically to include machines capable of assembling other machines and even robots that can be mistaken for human beings.
Where were the first robotic dogs used?
Dogs come in many helpful forms: seeing-eye dogs, K9 assistants, therapy pets and robotic dogs that can find and defuse bombs.
Do you remember that robot dog that went viral a few years ago? The one that can run uphill, climb stairs, and looks like the killer robot dogs in the TV show “Black Mirror”? It’s now available for select customers.
“Massachusetts State Police is the first law enforcement agency in the country to use Boston Dynamics’ dog-like robot, called Spot”.
Spot, four-legged robot dog that Boston Dynamics first began developing out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before spinning off into a full-fledged startup in 1992, is now working with the Massachusetts State Police’s bomb squad, according to filings obtained by that state’s branch of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), a civil rights nonprofit.
How do robotic dogs benefit the police?
The primary interest of the company is sending the robot into situations where you want to collect information in an environment where it’s too dangerous to send a person.
The spot is a “general purpose” robot, with an open API. That means customers whether a police department or warehouse operator can customize Spot with its software.
Robot technology is a valuable tool for law enforcement because of its ability to provide situational awareness of potentially dangerous environments.
“Law enforcement isn’t the only area Spot has been working in to see how the robot can help. The oil and gas industries, construction, as well as hazardous chemical environments, are situations that could benefit”.
In an oil and gas site, you have to send people into potentially explosive or noxious environments that can make them sick or potentially kill them. If you had a robot attached that is capable of carrying various sensors to detect those problems, you wouldn’t have to expose a person to risk in that space.
Some robots already do this type of remote investigating, but their mobility isn’t as nimble as Spot’s. Many of these robots are on wheels or tracks that can’t handle all types of terrain. Stairs, curbs and rough ground may present obstacles to the robots doing their jobs.
Robot Dog – Spot’s features include:
Top speed: 3 mph
Average runtime: 90 minutes
Carrying capacity: 30 pounds
Carry a payload of 14kg or 31lb
Rechargeable and replaceable battery that lasts for 90 minutes
Work in a tough environment
Is using robot police dogs worth the risks?
Police departments in the U.S. have used robot helpers for years. In 2016, Dallas officers used a robot loaded with explosives to kill the man who murdered five police officers during a protest, in what was the first time a police robot has been used to kill a suspect. No charges were filed against the officers behind the controls of that police robot.
However, with new technology comes new concerns about how exactly officers will employ semi-autonomous robots in the field. In addition to weaponization, police departments can use Spot with other technologies, for purposes such as surveillance.
“The technology that can be used in concert with a robotic system like this is almost limitless in terms of what kinds of surveillance and potentially even weaponization operations may be allowed”.
Boston Dynamics said that public safety-focused relationships to date and those robots like Spot can help save officer’s lives.
Sending a nimble robot like Spot into these situations can remove humans from potentially life-threatening environments and provide emergency responders with better situational awareness of a crisis.
These are the same capabilities that oil and gas, electric utility, nuclear decommissioning and mining customers will use to perform critical safety inspections without exposing people to risk.
The public urgently needs more transparency from government agencies, who should be upfront with the public about their plans to test and deploy new technologies.
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