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Singapore releases the robot hounds to enforce social distancing in parks

Smithers: If I really must go outside, can you arrange it so I encounter the smallest possible number of virus-laden humans?

Singapore is trialing robot dogs to enforce social distancing in its parks, to assist the national coronavirus-control effort.

As outlined by GovTech Singapore, the nation’s digital advancement agency, the beast is a Boston Dynamics Spot device that’s been programmed to roam a 3km stretch in the River Plains section of Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park during off-peak hours.

“A recorded message will be broadcast from SPOT to remind park visitors to observe safe distancing measures. SPOT will also be fitted with cameras – enabled with GovTech-developed video analytics – to estimate the number of visitors in parks,” the agency says.

Govtech promises the cameras “will not be able to track and/or recognise specific individuals, and no personal data will be collected.”

Youtube Video

Spot’s controlled remotely, which means Singaporean park staff don’t need to go out into virus-exposed meatspace to do their jobs and also don’t interact with those braving the open air.

The video above shows that Spot certainly keeps people a safe distance apart: they first seem to be creeped out by the bot, then retreat from it to take a photo.

The agency also says it chose Spot because it can navigate varied terrain, meaning the robo-cop-dog won’t just wander park paths but could also walk over a hill or climb stairs in its quest to find humans to warn.

Singapore’s also trialing Spot to carry medicine to patient in hospitals. ®

Bootnote: Here's a Boston Dynamics promo showing off Spot's capabilities.

Youtube Video

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