At a time when simply sharing space with a fellow human can prove to be dangerous, many governments, airports, and hospital are replacing people with robots to limit the spread of the deadly virus that continues to spread rampantly across the globe.
Robot dogs to patrol public parks in Singapore
Singapore has enlisted the services of a four-legged robot to patrol public parks and remind people to practice social distancing from Friday, May 8. The city-state's municipal authorities announced that it would deploy Spot, Boston Dynamics' famous yellow and black canine robot, at a local park to ensure cyclists, joggers, and other park-goers are following the rules, according to The Straits Times.
Starting today, a Spot unit will start patrolling the city's Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park, relaying pre-recorded messages "to remind park visitors to observe safe distancing measures." The authorities claim the robots will not only reduce the need for staff to patrol the grounds but also "lowers the risk of exposure to the virus."
Equipped with cameras, in-built sensors
The robot will also be equipped with cameras that will scan its surroundings to allow officials to estimate the number of people gathering in parks. However, Singapore's National Parks Board (NParks) says it won't collect personal data or use the video to identify individuals.
Spot is controlled remotely, but comes with in-built sensors to avoid collisions and will be accompanied with a park ranger. Singapore's government says it singled out the Boston Dynamics' robot for its agility. "Unlike wheeled robots, Spot works well across different terrains and can navigate obstacles effectively, making it ideal for operation in public parks and gardens," it noted.
The pilot project is currently set to run in a limited trial for two weeks at the during off-peak hours. But if the trial is successful, the robot could earn a full-time gig during the park's busy hours. The authorities are also considering deploying these four-legged machines elsewhere in the city and for different purposes. The Singapore government is already using Spot robots at a local isolation facility to deliver medicines to patients.
'Black Mirror' Vibes
Shortly after news of the deployment of the robot dog emerged, people are freaking out over the uncanny resemblance to the relentless cyborg dog from 'Black Mirror: Metalhead' to its real-life, yellow-bodied counterpart. Netizens have taken to social media to point out the similarities between the two machines:
"Singapore has a robot dog patrolling their parks. Well we've been warned," wrote one user along with side-by-side pictures of a sign at the park, asking visitors not to "disrupt" the robot on its patrols on the left and a poster of the relevant episode from the popular Netflix series.