Last year the New York City Police Department (NYPD) began leasing a caninelike robot—a Spot model from Boston Dynamics that the department nicknamed Digidog. Officers deployed the robot in just a few cases, including a hostage situation in the Bronx and an incident at a public housing building in Manhattan. As word spread (along with photographs and videos), a backlash from the public—and eventually elected officials—quickly gained momentum. Some objected to the robot’s expense. Others worried that its use threatened civil liberties. Many simply found it creepy.
The NYPD abruptly terminated its lease and quit using the robot last month. Other U.S. police departments have been testing their own Spot models, however. “Spot has been particularly resourceful in tackling dull, dirty and dangerous tasks,” the Boston Dynamics spokesperson told Scientific American. “Public safety initiatives, including police departments, often face dangerous work, such as inspecting a bomb, rummaging through remnants of an explosion or fire, or even deescalating a potentially dangerous situation.”