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NYPD deploys robot dog to home invasion call

Published Feb 24th, 2021 5:31PM EST

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  • Highly-advanced robots powered by artificial intelligence show promise in a number of applications, including law enforcement. 
  • The New York Police Department recently purchased a “digidog” robot, which is a version of the four-legged Spot robot from Boston Dynamics.
  • The NYPD has wasted no time in deploying the robot, and it was recently used to respond to a home invasion call.

Police officers regularly put themselves in harm’s way as they conduct their daily duties, respond to calls, and patrol neighborhoods. In particularly dangerous situations, such as armed standoffs, the risk of serious injury to both the officers and the suspects goes up dramatically. Robots might be able to help, and the NYPD recently purchased a four-legged black-and-blue robo-dog in the hopes that it can help defuse tense situations without putting citizens or officers in danger.

As the NY Post reports, the new “Digidog” robot was recently deployed in response to a home invasion call in which a suspect was reported to be barricaded inside a building. The bot, which is equipped with two-way communication tools, lights, and cameras, performed a role that would normally be done by officers, entering the residence in search of the individual.

The robot is designed by Boston Dynamics and is based on the company’s popular Spot robot design. It’s highly capable when it comes to exploration, with the ability to walk up and down stairs and explore the inside of a building without bouncing off the walls. The robot can also be equipped with a robotic arm that allows it to open and close doors. It uses artificial intelligence to help it navigate while also responding to commands from its handlers remotely.

“This dog is going to save lives, protect people, and protect officers and that’s our goal,” NYPD Technical Assistance Response Unit Inspector Frank Digiacomo told ABC 7 in an interview in December.

In its most recent deployment, the robot dog found the residence to be empty of occupants, but it has also reportedly been used previously in both a hostage situation and another incident in which a man had barricaded himself inside a residence. Those are situations that would normally have to be tackled simply by waiting for the individual to decide to come out or attempting to make contact and begin a dialogue with the suspect or suspects.

In such cases, the robot offers law enforcement a relatively risk-free way to make contact with individuals inside a building that might not be safe for officers to enter. The robot does not have any offensive capabilities, and it doesn’t look particularly threatening, which may help police to calm tense situations faster than they would otherwise be able to.

It’s not exactly RoboCop, but the Digidog is already proving to be useful. It might not be long before more and more police forces adopt such hardware in the name of keeping officers and the public safe.

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