- The NYPD has introduced two crime-fighting robots to assist human police officers: the Digidog, built by Boston Dynamics, and the K5 Autonomous Security Robot, built by Knightscope.
- These robots are designed to help in situations where it may be too dangerous for human officers to intervene, such as in bomb threat incidents, and are not equipped with facial recognition technology or weapons.
- While some have expressed concerns about the use of robots in law enforcement, it remains to be seen whether New Yorkers will accept their presence this time around, following a short-lived deployment in 2021.
On Tuesday, New York City introduced a new set of robotic crime-fighters to aid human police officers. This is the city’s second attempt to integrate robocops into its police force, after a previous attempt was met with public criticism and ended abruptly two years ago.
Digidogs to assist NYPD
This time, the NYPD has invested $750,000 from asset forfeiture funds to acquire two “Digidogs,” which are quadruped robots built by Boston Dynamics, a Massachusetts-based robotics company. The robots, also known as Spot, are highly adaptable and can operate independently or with some level of human guidance.
The Digidogs are capable of assisting in situations that may pose a danger to human officers. For example, in the case of a bomb threat, a Digidog equipped with a camera can be deployed to capture and livestream images from the scene, aiding in the development of an appropriate plan of action.
In addition, the NYPD plans to test the K5 Autonomous Security Robot, a five-foot-tall robot with wheels, which will patrol the Times Square subway station starting this summer. Built by Knightscope, a California-based company, the K5 resembles a larger, more advanced version of R2-D2, with a 360-degree camera and multiple microphones that monitor the surroundings for any suspicious activity.
According to officials, the NYPD has allotted $12,250 for the deployment of the K5 robot, which will work in conjunction with a human officer. However, it’s important to note that the robot has some limitations in terms of mobility, as its top speed is only 3 mph and it’s unable to navigate stairs. It should be noted that none of the new robotic recruits in the NYPD’s arsenal will feature facial recognition technology or weaponry.
“If we were not willing to move forward and use technology to properly keep cities safe, then we will not keep up with those who are doing harmful things to hurt New York,” Mayor Eric Adams stated on Tuesday, as reported by CBS:
However, the NYPD’s decision to bring in robots as police assistance has not been well-received by everyone. Communities United for Police Reform, for instance, expressed concerns about the move, stating:
“We need to invest in housing, education, mental health care, and community programs that will keep us safe, not investment in new and expensive technologies to criminalize us further.”
Albert Fox Cahn, who serves as the executive director of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, also expressed skepticism about the use of robots in policing. In a statement, Cahn noted that the NYPD’s move was akin to “turning bad science fiction into terrible policing,” and added that the city deserved better than a “knockoff robocop.”
The key question now is whether the people of New York will accept the presence of robots in law enforcement, especially after their previous short-lived deployment in 2021.