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NYC Mayor: Robo-pup 'out of the pound' and back to police work

Please don't pair it with ChatGPT, please don't pair it with ChatGPT

Video Two Digidog robots will return to New York City for police work despite earlier criticism that ended with the cops terminating a $94,000 contract and sending the remote-controlled machines back to Boston Dynamics.

"Digidog is out of the pound," New York City Mayor Eric Adams said at a press conference in Times Square Tuesday, during which officers trotted out the headless, yellow and black robotic canine. You can see it below.

Youtube Video

In addition to the remote-controlled Digidogs, New York City will also try out a K5 autonomous security robot for use on subways and tourist spots, and a StarChase GPS system that monitors trackers placed on cars, according to city officials.

The K5, which the city will lease from Knightscope, is a nearly 400-pound, 5-foot tall self-driving robot that looks like a cross between a cartoon rocketship and R2-D2. It's outfitted with sensors and cameras, and will provide real-time incident notification to first responders, NYPD Chief Jeffrey Maddrey claimed.

The plod will only have one of these AI-based units during the six-month trial, which will start in June or July. During this time, the police will use it to patrol indoor and outdoor "confined areas" like transit facilities, and the initial deployment will likely be either in Times Square or the nearby subway station, according to Maddrey.

"For the first month of this appointment we will have a human partner along with the artificial intelligence, the device," he added. "One of our members from the Technical Assistance Response Unit will help monitor it and make sure that it's working properly."

The StarChase GPS tracking system, which will also be deployed as a pilot, comes as a handheld device and a set of vehicle-mounted gadgets. The cops plan to use it to track cars that have paper plates or are stolen, which are often used to commit other crimes, NYPD Chief John Chell said during the press conference.

"And why we are doing this, it allows our officers to stay safe, limit pursuits, and let the GPS do its job," he said.

Release the (robot) hounds

And then there's the two Digidogs, which the city bought for $750,000 using forfeiture money, according to the police department. Los Angeles lawmakers are considering a similar deployment for police work. The Digidogs operate under remote control by humans, though they do feature some automation.

A previous experiment with the robotic canines in New York drew sharp criticism from residents and lawmakers alike, including now-former NYC Mayor Bill DeBlasio and House Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), and ultimately cut short a trial of the technology in 2021.

Digidog "could be used to save lives," Adams said, downplaying the earlier backlash against the headless robot dogs as "a few loud people were opposed to it," which ultimately forced the city to take "a step back."

"That is not how I operate," Adams said. "I operate on looking at what's best for the city."

The robot dogs won't be used for patrol, but will instead respond to crisis situations where an armed suspect or hazardous materials may pose a threat to human lives, including responding police officers.

"This is a lifesaving device," Maddrey said. "It's going to be used for hostage situations, bomb threats, counterterrorism situations. Things where the best course of action will be to send the Digidog in first before a human being."

Regardless of public pushback, the robot canines aren't going back to Boston Dynamics this time around, the mayor added.

"Digidog is now part of the tool kit that we are using," Adams said. "And trust me when I tell you this. If a person has a loved one that is in a hostage situation, they want a Digidog, a real dog, and anything else they can get, to keep their family members safe. We are leaving no stone unturned to protect New Yorkers." ®

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