Spot, Boston Dynamics' robotic 'canid star', jumped from the lab into the 'working world', even briefly stopping by the Web Summit. Being a robust and customizable platform with task applications that could endanger the lives of humans, the robot has caught the attention of the Massachusetts Department of Police, which has decided to make it a temporary contributor.
According to WBUR, the Boston public radio station, the state bomb squad made a three month deal with Boston Dynamics for the temporary acquisition of Spot. As the documents in question indicate, the purpose behind the police decision was to test the application of the robot in the area of public safety, in particular in the “remote inspection of potentially hazardous environments”.
Although the documents in question do not reveal exact details about the use of the automaton, a police spokesman confirmed to WBUR that Spot was used as a "mobile remote observation device". The robot helped the bomb squad by providing images of suspicious equipment and potentially dangerous locations, and was even used in two incidents.
Both the Massachusetts State Police Department and Boston Dynamics say they do not want to make Spot an armed robot. As Michael Perry, the company's vice president of business development, has indicated, the agreements must have a clause stating that the automaton will not be used in a way that could cause physical harm to the public.
However, the use of Spot by Massachusetts law enforcement is also attracting the attention of groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation (ACLU). The organization demanded more transparency from the Police Department regarding the intentions behind the deal with Boston Dynamics. According to a statement by Kade Crockford, Program Director of ACLU, to Tech Crunch, "government agencies should be honest with the public regarding their plans to test and apply new technologies."