The New York Police Department had a contract in place with Boston Dynamics for a quadruped robot known as “Digidog.” The robot came under fire by representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez after a video of the robot being used on patrol in a Manhattan housing project went viral. The video sparked backlash, with some comparing it to the TV series “Black Mirror.”
The New York City Council later subpoenaed images of the robot after the video went viral. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio also asked the NYPD to rethink its use of the robot. The subpoena issued by the City Council was meant to determine the cost of the robot.
Police officials later said that the NYPD had ended its $94,000 contract with Boston Dynamics on April 22 after inquiries from Council Speaker Corey Johnson and Councilman Ben Kallos. The lease on the robot was supposed to end in August but was cut short after NYPD deputy commissioner for intelligence and counterterrorism, John Miller, said the robot became a “target.”
Miller says that people were improperly using the robot to fuel arguments about race and surveillance. Miller said that people had figured out “the catchphrases and the language” to make the robot evil. In February, the NYPD used the robot in response to a home invasion and hostage situation in the Bronx.
In response to the deployment of the robot in that instance, the police were met with criticism by Ocasio-Cortez and other local politicians who called the robot a “robotic surveillance ground drone.” Boston Dynamics designed the robot for use by police and other law enforcement agencies to prevent humans from going into unknown situations where their lives would be at risk. The robot is capable of two-way communication, uses AI to navigate its environment, and is fitted with no weapons.