You know that creepy robot dog that occasionally infiltrates your nightmares? The police use it now. Boston Dynamics loaned a Spot robot “dog” to Massachusetts State Police for three months, according to WBUR News. The station reviewed documents acquired by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Massachusetts detailing the deal.
Who let the dogs out? — Boston Dynamics let the Massachusetts bomb squad take a Spot robot for a spin from August to November. Until this point, the ideal purpose of robots was to perform dangerous tasks on construction sites and in factories.
WBUR spoke with Michael Perry, the company’s vice president for business development, about the loan. With the police and every other case so far, the company remains adamant about leasing the robots instead of selling them outright.
“Part of our early evaluation process with customers is making sure that we're on the same page for the usage of the robot,” Perry said. “So upfront, we're very clear with our customers that we don't want the robot being used in a way that can physically harm somebody.”
Could the police manipulate the robot? — Though Spot has an open API, the police didn’t use it to customize any commands. Thor Eells, executive director of the National Tactical Officers Association, also noted that even existing robots are only used in extreme circumstances and they’re still bound by the law.
Spot needs a warrant, just like its human masters, but Eells admitted the robots are concerning developments for privacy and civil liberties.