Police agencies across the globe have officially started testing robot dogs. Although it sounds innovative and useful, there are some questions to be answered: How effective are they? And what applications do they have? Let's look into some case studies from the US to Singapore:
Massachusetts Bomb Squad
Massachusetts State Police is the first law enforcement agency in the US to use the Boston Dynamics' dog-like robot, called Spot.
In the three month trial, the robot was used as a mobile remote observation device to provide troopers with images of suspicious devices or potentially risky locations.
“Robot technology is a valuable tool for law enforcement because of its ability to provide situational awareness of potentially dangerous environments,” state police spokesman David Procopio said.
According to documents obtained by OneZero, detailing a Spot trial with the Massachusetts State Police, the robot has potential, but some issues were experienced. On one occasion, when the bomb squad brought Spot along to investigate and a police technician powered it up to walk towards a suspicious briefcase, the robot went into “sit” mode. Eventually, they get Spot to walk over to the target and take video.
Despite some problems and the poor video quality, Spot accomplished its goal to “go downrange, survey the surrounding area for additional threats, confirm observations and gather additional information.”
The technology, although it is very sophisticated, is not powered by artificial intelligence. Many of its mechanical commands must be initiated and guided by human operators.
Dubai’s Robotic K9
Dubai Police is known for its pioneering technological tools and recently, the agency unveiled an unexpected innovation: a robotic K9.
The smart dog features a 360-degree wireless camera for all-round surveillance and is powered with speech recognition allowing it to understand various instructions. The robot can sit, stand, walk for some distance, and perform a “handshake,” just as a real dog would do.
“The smart dog weighs 35kg. It has a CCTV camera atop with a 360-degree view which is Wifi enabled. It can transmit images directly to the police operations room,” said Abdulsalam AlHammadi, CEO of Innovation Kingdom, the company building the smart dog in cooperation with Dubai Police.
This robot is a stage one and is used to secure embassies in the UAE, but they are working on the next model, which will be powered with facial recognition and will be focused on securing communities and catching criminals. The new features will allow it to identify narcotics and other banned substances.
“Our idea is such that when a police official walks in the mall, there could be a smart dog walking alongside him and at the same time through the camera, it could send information to the police operations room if there are wanted people through face recognition technology.”
Safe Distancing in Singapore
As with other agencies in the world, Singapore has recently trialed Spot, the popular Boston Dynamics robotic dog, in a local park to enforce visitors to practice safe distancing.
According to a publication on the government’s website, the two-week pilot program took place within a two-mile stretch during off-peak hours at the popular Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park.
The robot was used to patrol, while broadcasting recorded messages to politely remind visitors of the social distancing rules. Due to being controlled remotely, it helped to reduce the manpower required to patrol the park and minimize the physical contact among officers, staff, and visitors.
Spot was outfitted with cameras and analytic capabilities to estimate the number of visitors to the park; however, it wasn’t able to track or recognize specific individuals, and no personal data was collected.
Results are yet to be published but, as reported by The Verge, if the trial is successful the robot may be deployed full-time during peak hours in the park and it may also be expanded to include other parks and heavily trafficked areas.