Digidog, a Robotic Dog Used by the Police, Stirs Privacy Concerns

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The company, which calls the robot dog Spot, began selling it last June. Most of the buyers have been utility and energy companies, as well as manufacturers and construction companies, which use it to get into spaces too dangerous for humans, said Michael Perry, vice president of business development at the company.

The robot has been used to inspect sites with hazardous material. Early in the pandemic, it was used by health care workers to communicate with potentially sick patients at hospital triage sites, Mr. Perry said.

Most of the companies rename the robot after they buy it, giving it names like Bolt and Mac and Cheese, he said.

The Massachusetts State Police and the Honolulu Police Department are also using it. Other police departments have called the company to learn more about the robot, which has a starting price of about $74,000 and may cost more with extra features, Mr. Perry said.

The robotic dog, which has a 90-minute battery life and walks at a speed of three miles per hour, was not designed to act as a covert tool of mass surveillance, Mr. Perry said.

“It’s noisy and has flashing lights,” he said. “It’s not something that is discreet.”

The use of robots that can be deployed into dangerous situations to keep police officers out of harm’s way could become the norm.

In Dallas in 2016, the police ended a standoff with a gunman sought in the killings of five officers by blowing him up using a robot.

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