Back in 2021, the New York Police Department (NYPD) cancelled a planned deployment of the Spot robot dog [aka "Digidog"] following a public backlash. Now, New York City's current law and order mayor Eric Adams has brought the robot dog back for use in "hazardous situations," The New York Times has reported. "Digidog is out of the pound," Adams said at a press conference yesterday in Times Square.
The NYPD will acquire two of the robots for $750,000 and only use them in hostage and other critical situations. "I believe that technology is here; we cannot be afraid of it,” Adams said. “A few loud people were opposed to it, and we took a step back [but] that is not how I operate. I operate on looking at what’s best for the city."
Spot/Digidog is built by Hyundai's Boston Dynamics, and is designed to be used in dangerous situations like security and inspections. It was also tested for use in combat by the French army, primarily for reconnaissance.
During its previous tour of duty with the NYPD, police used Spot to gather information about a gunmen barricaded inside a building. On another occasion it was deployed during a home invasion, also to give officers eyes inside the house. After critics brought up potential concerns over surveillance and privacy, however, then-mayor Bill de Blasio elected to cancel a $94,000 lease on Spot. "It’s creepy, alienating and sends the wrong message to New Yorkers," a city spokesperson said at the time.
Along with Digidog, the NYPD announced testing of two other types of security and surveillance tech. The Guardian HX from StarChase shoots GPS tracking tags onto vehicles from a handheld or car-mounted launcher, allowing officers to find them without the needed for a chase. The other is the Knightscope's K5 ASR, a "fully autonomous outdoor security robot" that the NYPD wants to use for collecting intelligence.
"This is the beginning of a series of rollouts we are going to do to show how public safety has transformed itself," Adams said at the press conference. However, the move was condemned by Albert Fox Cahn from the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project. "The NYPD is turning bad science fiction into terrible policing," he told the NYT in a statement. "New York deserves real safety, not a knockoff from 'Robocop.'"