Imagine walking through Republic Street only to see an alien-like robotic dog chasing down a violent robber. It sounds like an episode of Black Mirror, but for New York City, this is now real life.
In New York City, this is becoming a reality as ‘Digidogs’ walk their streets, assisting police officers and have also been used in hospitals to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
Many have expressed their shock and alarm at seeing these Digidogs, created by Boston Dynamics, being deployed in NYC to the point where many have claimed that the dystopic series Black Mirror has predicted the future.
Watching these bizarre robots trotting down your street offer only a taste of what the future may hold.
Nah they really got these robot police dogs in NYC. This is wild pic.twitter.com/iG7CTPFevH
— THEE DON (@1800SPOILED) April 12, 2021
The Black Mirror comparisons started due to the episode ‘Metalhead’, in which highly advanced, robotic canines have taken over the world. These robodogs are able to use enough artificial intelligence to problem solve in a Terminator-esque future.
Black Mirror creator Charlie Brooker was even inspired by prototype versions of the Digidog, that was created for the intention of being customisable to the needs of it’s customer by Boston Dynamics.
First sighted in October, NYPD has been using these robotic dogs as a way for officers to scout an area without the risk of officers being harmed.
Though still in the test phase, the dog is equipped with lights and cameras to allow officers to remotely view a scene in real-time, even allowing remote communication via the robotic canine.
Yet, many local politicians, including Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, have criticised the use of these robots. Whilst they are banned from being weaponised under NYC legislation, Ocasio-Cortez accused these canines of being “robotic surveillance ground drone[s]”.
Shout out to everyone who fought against community advocates who demanded these resources go to investments like school counseling instead.
Now robotic surveillance ground drones are being deployed for testing on low-income communities of color with under-resourced schools 👍🏽 https://t.co/ZqKtnexctb
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) February 25, 2021
These robots have come at a time when police brutality is a particularly key topic within the US. For the past few years, minority communities – especially the African American community – have seen discrimination at the hands of police officers.
Among the most notorious cases has been the killing of George Floyd in May 2020. His death sparked huge protests across the US and around the globe, including further pushing the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement.
In light of this, Digidogs bring up the question of if this may be a solution to police brutality or whether it may only worsen it. After all, this entirely depends on who actually controls them.
Even if the robodogs could not become independent or abused by police, there is always the question of how such robots could be exploited, whether it is by terrorists, rogue governments or individuals.
Digidogs have also been introduced in hospitals by MIT in a ground-breaking experiment on revolutionising healthcare systems and alleviating the risk of frontline healthcare workers.
Used especially during the pandemic, these ‘robodocs’ are specially programmed to triage hospital patients whilst allowing healthcare workers to remotely assess patients.
According to the research carried out by the MIT professors so far, patients have proved welcome to the idea of these robots, even allowing them to carry out minor procedures – such as checking vital signs or taking nasal swabs.
Through this newest development, frontline workers are less at risk in hospitals during the pandemic, while also helping to stop the spread of the coronavirus through hospital wards.
Combined with Digidogs allowing less risk for police officers, there are benefits of these robotic assistants. That said, it cannot be denied that the worst-case scenarios will always be in the back of people’s minds. Who knows what the future could bring?
Do you think Malta should get these robotic dogs? Let us know in the comments