It seemed like only a matter of time before the sometimes silly, sometimes terrifying robots from Boston Dynamics made their way into police work.
That time has come, apparently: The Massachusetts State Police employed the dog-like Spot from Boston Dynamics from August until early November 2019, Boston public radio station WBUR reported on Nov. 25, 2019.
So, what was the Massachusetts State Police doing with a robot dog?
The loan agreement between Boston Dynamics and Massachusetts State Police explains it’s being used, “For the purpose of evaluating the robot’s capabilities in law enforcement applications, particularly remote inspection of potentially dangerous environments which may contain suspects and ordinances.”
Videos of Spot in action depict the dog-like robot opening doors and performing surveillance — it was used by the Bomb Squad and only the Bomb Squad, according to the lease agreement.
Though Spot was loaned to the Massachusetts State Police for testing, a representative told WBUR that Spot was deployed in two “incidents” without specifying details.
Both Boston Dynamics and the Massachusetts State Police say that the agreement didn’t allow robots to physically harm or threaten anyone.
A fleet of Boston Dynamics’ SpotMini pull a Boston Dynamics truck.
“Part of our early evaluation process with customers is making sure that we’re on the same page for the usage of the robot,” Boston Dynamics VP of business development Michael Perry told WBUR. “So upfront, we’re very clear with our customers that we don’t want the robot being used in a way that can physically harm somebody.”
State police spokesman David Procopio echoed that sentiment. “Robot technology is a valuable tool for law enforcement because of its ability to provide situational awareness of potentially dangerous environments.”
Moreover, that’s how Boston Dynamics is handling the first commercial sales of Spot.
“As a part of our lease agreement, for people who enter our early adopter program, we have a clause that says you cannot use a robot in a way that physically harms or intimidates people,” Perry told Business Insider in a phone call on Nov. 25, 2019.
Boston Dynamics has a range of different robots.
Boston Dynamics announced earlier this year that Spot would be its first robot to go on sale to the public.
Those sales have already begun through the company’s “Early Adopter Program,” which offers leases to customers with certain requirements. If a customer violates that agreement, Boston Dynamics can terminate the relationship and reclaim its robot — it also allows the company to repair and replace the Spot robots it sells.
Perry said the Massachusetts State Police is the only law enforcement or military organization that Boston Dynamics is working with currently.
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