While there are many that heed warnings to keep their distance or even stay indoors unless absolutely necessary, there are definitely those that may not be so diligent, especially if there’s no one around to catch them. Given the lack of manpower to enforce social distancing regulations, Singapore is turning to robotics to keep an eye out and remind people about the risks they may be putting themselves and others in. The question, however, is whether their use of Boston Dynamic’s popular yet unpopular four-legged robot will be an effective tool or will ironically only draw more people to it instead.
Boston Dynamics has been creating robots for years and none of them probably match most people’s images of robots. Even the smaller Spot has been known to unnerve some people who refuse to consider it even remotely close to a dog. It may not have the appearance of man’s best friend but it is definitely helping save lives.
In Singapore, the quadruped robot is being used to practically police a three-kilometer section of the Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park during off-peak hours. Its purpose is to primarily remind parkgoers to practice social distancing but a real-time video feed also allows park authorities to monitor the surroundings and even count people if needed. The government assures the cameras cannot recognize faces nor will personal data be collected.
Spot can be controlled remotely, removing the need to place park personnel in risky situations. That said, the robot is already known for its object detection and obstacle avoidance capabilities. And unlike regular wheeled robots, Spot is able to navigate the uneven terrain common to parks much easier.
If the two-week experiment is a success, other Spots will be deployed to other parks even during peak hours. That said, hopefully, it won’t become a sensation and draw crowds that will cause them to violate social distancing instead. A Spot robot is also being used at the Changi Exhibition Centre isolation facility to remotely deliver medicine to patients.