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Monday, June 22, 2020

Robot Dog Patrols Park

In Singapore, Google’s “dog” robot marches through a large park, making sure people socially distance. 

Visitors to the Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park have been unnerved to find a headless, robotic dog purposely treading along the asphalt paths. “Spot,” the yellow and black canine (sort of) spawn of Boston Robotics, is programmed to walk at human speed, occasionally playing a recording in a soft, female voice that encourages people to stay apart.

“Let’s keep Singapore healthy,” says the voice. “For your own safety, and those around you, please stand at least one meter apart. Thank you.”

Not a bad use for the dog-size robot, which is race- and gender-neutral. However, its presence does appear to scare the pants off some park-goers in videos that follow its movement through the grassy space. 

Spot the Robot

The quadruped is a sensation on YouTube, where videos show it walking up and down stairs, blithely operating across precarious terrain, moving through rain and dust, and avoiding obstacles in the dark. It can right itself if it falls over and assume a lowered position on the floor when it is not in use.

You might wonder about getting a Spot of your own, so what does one of these little guys cost?

Boston Dynamics is evasive on the answer. To be certain, it depends on what sort of add-ons your Spot would come with, and how much support the company would provide. Both can vary considerably. But alas, Boston Dynamics is not currently offering its doggy robot for personal use. Instead, businesses can apply to get one by first filling out a questionnaire about what tasks they want the robot to perform. Not only does Boston Dynamics want to make sure expectations are not unrealistic, the company also encourages industry operators to come up with innovative uses for the steel “animal” that the company itself hasn’t yet pondered. In that way, the robot will be tested for unusual jobs that may broaden its sales appeal. However, Boston Dynamics does give a hint about the price: it’s slightly less than the cost of a car. Hmmm, would that be a Land Rover or a Mini Cooper? The company isn’t saying.

One danger in using the robot to maintain social distancing is that people may become blasé about the mechanical canine. How long will it be until people just look at the robot and go on with inappropriately close chatting? 


Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors