May 15, 2020
If a headless, four-legged robot dog yelled at you to comply with social distancing, would you obey him? Singapore has deployed Spot, Boston Dynamics’ yellow and black canine robot, as an effort to encourage social distancing in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
For a trial period of two weeks, Singapore’s National Parks Board and the Smart Nation and Digital Government Group will release Spot, who broadcasts messages reminding people of the importance of social distancing, throughout parks, gardens and nature reserves around the city.
Equipped with cameras, Spot can sense the number of people around him and will estimate how many visitors enter the parks each day. Authorities ensure that Spot’s cameras do not have the capabilities to track or recognize specific individuals and no personal data will be collected.
If you’ve ever seen any of Boston Dynamics’ viral video clips you already know that the robodog uncannily matches the idiosyncrasies of a canine. Typically used for inspections on construction sites or similar situations, Spot can run uphill, mount stairs, and even handle a kicking. According to CNN, Singapore’s government said it had picked the model for its agility. “Unlike wheeled robots, Spot works well across different terrains and can navigate obstacles effectively, making it ideal for operation in public parks and gardens,” they told CNN.
Since Spot is controlled remotely, park patrols are at less of a risk of exposure to COVID-19 as Singapore’s number of cases continues to rise.