New York’s Mayor Bill de Blasio has ordered a controversial robotic dog undergoing trials with the city’s police off the street, and a $94,200 contract with creator Boston Dynamics cancelled.
The robot canine, named “Digidog”, is to be returned to its manufacturer following outrage tied to calls to cut police funding and law enforcement access to military-developed or surplus hardware.
De Blasio voiced that he is “glad the Digidog was put down”. A city government spokesperson added: “It’s creepy, alienating, and sends the wrong message to New Yorkers.”
The 70lb robot could run at three and a half miles per hour and climb stairs. It was primarily intended to go into situations deemed dangerous for officers, and had been undergoing trials in the Bronx since it was unveiled last December.
“This dog is going to save lives, protect people, and protect officers, and that’s our goal,” a police spokesman said at the time. Officials later said that the robot’s purpose was to take police officers out of harm’s way.
But the dog sparked an immediate backlash, with critics noting police dogs have been traditionally used to suppress and intimidate communities of color. Some critics also pointed out it was reminiscent of robot dogs in the dystopian Netflix series Black Mirror.
“Shout out to everyone who fought against community advocates who demanded these resources go to investments like school counseling instead,” said congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Twitter.
“Now robotic surveillance ground drones are being deployed for testing on low-income communities of color with under resourced schools.”