The New York Police Department has said good-bye to Spot—a canine-like robot from engineering company Boston Dynamics.
According to the New York Times, the department had acquired about 500 models of the four-legged robot, which it nicknamed Digidog, back in August 2020 and had intended to test their capabilities for an entire year. Officials argued that the machine could be useful in dangerous or hard-to-navigate situations, as it came equipped with multiple cameras, lights, and sensors. However, the Digidog was met with backlash this year after viral videos showed the robot patrolling the streets of NYC as well as a public housing building.
Critics said the robotic dogs were not only “creepy,” they also demonstrated the increasing militarization of U.S. policing. Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez slammed the move as a waste of NYC tax dollars and suggested the machines were being used to specifically target underserved communities.
John Miller, NYPD deputy commissioner for intelligence and counterterrorism, said the department prematurely ended the Digidog test run because it was stoking arguments about race and surveillance.
“People had figured out the catchphrases and the language to somehow make this evil,” Miller told the Times, before suggesting the robot could return. “But for now, this is a casualty of politics, bad information and cheap sound bytes. We should have named it ‘Lassie.’”