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Massachusetts police begin testing Boston Dynamics robot dog, Spot



Spot, who has a striking resemblance to the murderous robot dogs of Black Mirror, has been used by law enforcement for the very first time. 

According to records obtained by the Massachusetts ACLU and published by WBUR, the Boston Dynamics robot was leased by the Massachusetts State Police for a three-month trial period ending on Nov. 5. 

Spot in action, as posted by the Massachusetts State Police.
Spot in action, as posted by the Massachusetts State Police.

The records don’t share how the cops used Spot, beyond stating it was a “mobile remote observation device.” The robot does not come equipped with any weapons: just four legs, a camera, and one troublingly dextrous arm.

As WBUR points out, it is already routine for police to use robots, especially in dangerous situations involving explosives or hostages. But robots have been used to kill. To end a standoff with a sniper, Dallas police fitted a robot with a bomb, and killed the assailant with the explosion.

That might terrify people who have seen the 2017 Black Mirror episode “” in which weaponized robot dogs hunt down, terrorize, and brutally kill humans, 

The robot dog cometh.
The robot dog cometh.

Boston Dynamics pointed out to WBUR that its terms of service specifically prohibit the weaponization of Spot. The company began leasing the robot in September, suggesting to companies it could be used on construction sites or to monitor oil and gas facilities. 

However, the ACLU doesn’t think terms of service are enough to guarantee law enforcement won’t arm robots in the future. 

“We really need some law and some regulation to establish a floor of protection to ensure that these systems can’t be misused or abused in the government’s hands,” Kate Crockford, an ACLU spokesperson, told WBUR. “And no, a terms of service agreement is just insufficient.” 

Until then, Sgt. Spot will prowl on. 

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