Following a backlash from residents and politicians, the New York Police Department will no longer deploy its Spot robot dog. A lease for the device has been canceled and it will be returned to Boston Dynamics, the NYPD told the New York Times.
It was only last December that the New York Police Department began deploying a heavily modified Spot quadruped on missions in New York City. The department intended to use it in situations involving hazardous materials, bomb threats, and other situations where citizens’ or officers’ lives were at risk. The few times it did get called out were surveillance scenarios, such as checking out the inside of a house involved in a reported burglary before officers entered.
“This dog is going to save lives, protect people, and protect officers and that’s our goal,” NYPD Technical Assistance Response Unit Inspector Frank Digiacomo told WABC Eyewitness News at the time.
Unfortunately, the robot nicknamed Digidog didn’t get a chance to show its true worth. Only months after the NYPD began leasing it from Boston Dynamics, it returned it not because it was damaged or malfunctioning, but because it is scary.
Critics raised privacy concerns about the robot, which has been deployed to several crime scenes and hostage situations since October. Bill Neidhardt, a spokesman for Mayor Bill de Blasio, told the NYT he was “glad the Digidog was put down,” adding that the machine is “creepy, alienating and sends the wrong message to New Yorkers.”
Before canceling the agreement on April 22nd, the NYPD planned to spend $94,000 on the lease, according to records. Buying a Spot robot outright costs $75,000.