If there's one thing we try to keep a eye on, it's the potential use of this global pandemic for governments to try and unleash new and "interesting" ways of surveillance.
Thus, our eyes and ears perked up when we learned that Singapore was now going to be using robot dogs to patrol public areas and make sure that citizens are keeping their distance from one another. Municipal authorities are using Spot, a four legged robot dog made by Boston Dynamics, to remind visitors to parks to keep a safe distance from one another.
The robo-doggo officially started patrol at Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park on Friday as part of a two week trial, according to The Verge. Spot is fitted with cameras that are used to estimate the number of visitors in the park, but Singapore says it won't collect personal data or use the video to identify individuals. Sure.
Spot also comes equipped with a remote control, built-in sensors and will be accompanied by a guide. If the trial is deemed a success, Spot (and likely others like him) could become mainstays in the country's public parks. The robot “lowers the risk of exposure to the virus,” the National Parks Board said, using the virus to shoehorn its agenda forward. Signs like the one above warn park visitors not to disrupt robot at work.
China and the U.S. have similarly experimented with drones to remind people to social distance. "Please maintain a safe distance between you and other people," one robot from Knightscope tells people.
Spot is also undergoing trials in hospitals to help with coronavirus treatments and delivery robots are helping shipping and logistics companies. As The Verge notes, patrolling the parks and reminding people to social distance "may only be the beginning" for these robots. The pandemic is being called a "new opportunity" for robotmakers to deploy their creations.
While the dog is only in charge of pandemic-related rules enforcement for now, we can envision that it won't be too long before they are enforcing other kinds of rules - for our own safety and good, undoubtedly - as well.
You can watch Spot on patrol in this video: