On Monday, April 12, 2021, a group of policemen in New York raided an apartment building in the luxury neighborhood of Manhattan, accompanied by a robot dog weighing about 32 kilograms, equipped with lights and cameras. When the police came out of the building and people saw the robot dog, many of them panicked and saw it as an example of police brutality.
On April 22 of the same year, in response to people’s concerns, the New York Police Department terminated the $94,000 lease of this robot dog with Boston Dynamics, its manufacturer.
Experts attribute people’s panic to the many movies and TV series that have featured robot dogs as villains stalking their victims, such as the dog that appeared in the Metalhead episode of the Black Mirror TV series, which first aired in 2017 Netflix aired. The robot dog more than one person then chases the heroine (Bella) who is equipped with weapons supported by LiDAR technology to determine the coordinates of the target by sending laser beams.
The story of robot dogs did not end there. Less than a year later, the New York City Fire Department began using Boston Dynamics’ Spot robot dog to help with difficult search and rescue operations, in a much less controversial application than the New York Police Department uses for it Type of dogs during raids .
A few months ago, the Portland Air National Guard brought in a robotic dog to help with security, which has the ability to monitor video as well as conduct ground patrols in rough terrain and jump over objects in the way, and is equipped with A 7-hour battery. This robot dog is remotely controlled by technicians, but work is currently underway to prepare it so that it can take the initiative and control itself without human guidance.
The United States is currently testing a robotic dog that it intends to use to protect its border with Mexico and reduce the infiltration of smugglers, terrorists and illegal immigrants.
This robotic dog weighs 45 kilograms and can traverse all types of terrain, as well as man-made environments such as stairs. Various devices can be added to this robot such as thermal cameras, night vision goggles, chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear sensors.
Honolulu police, the capital of the state of Hawaii, spent about $150,000 to buy robotic dogs to enter homeless camps and take body temperature checks, to ensure they are free of diseases, especially the Covid-19 virus.
Robot dogs outside the US
The use of robotic dogs in the security fields has not been limited to the United States, but has also expanded to many developed countries.
On March 29, while the streets of Shanghai were deserted due to the shutdown caused by the spread of Covid-19 again, the residents were surprised by a robot in the shape of a dog walking around the city’s streets and the issued instructions that residents should follow to avoid this virus, such as washing hands and wearing masks.
Reactions were mixed, with some residents enjoying watching the robot dog roam the streets, while others feared it.
In the Netherlands, the police have started using robot dogs to search inside drug manufacturing laboratories, as these laboratories are considered a risky place due to the presence of dangerous materials in them, in addition to the possibility of being robbed by armed criminals, and for this the decided to introduce the robot dog to them before the entry of security men.
In Switzerland, ANYbotics develops robotic dogs for industrial environments, meeting the needs of energy companies by providing them with optical and thermal cameras, microphones and sensors to monitor and warn of gas and oil hazards. These robotic dogs offer the ability to transfer the data they collect to a human console and analyze it via advanced software.
Armed robot dogs
The American company, Ghost Robotics, has released a robot dog called Vision 60, which in collaboration with the small arms company Sword International, has been equipped with a firearm.
This robot dog is compatible with different robot platforms, can visually enlarge scenes up to 30 times, and also uses a thermal camera to support shooting in the dark within a range of up to 1200 meters.
The spread of robot dogs
By the end of the first quarter of 2021, Boston Dynamics alone had deployed more than 500 robotic dogs for use in security and monitoring of construction sites, mines and factories, and utility companies had begun using robotic dogs in high-voltage and other hazardous areas.
It is expected that the entry of Chinese companies into the game, offering robot dogs that compete with the American and European ones at much lower prices, will spread very quickly.
Not long ago, in a commercial center in the Romanian capital of Bucharest, the Chinese company Xiaomi showed its robot dog CyberDog, whose specifications, according to it, exceed the specifications of the most famous American robot dog known as “Spot” produced by Boston Dynamics.
This Chinese robot dog is powered by a motor developed by the company that can provide a walking speed of 3.2 meters per second or 11.52 kilometers per hour.
This robotic dog carries several cameras powered by artificial intelligence and several high-resolution image sensors installed throughout its body, including touch sensors and an ultra-wide eye lens.
This robot dog can perform real-time analysis of its environment, create paths for its navigation and destination, avoid obstacles on the road, roll, perform back-turns and respond to voice commands (thanks to six microphones).
This robot dog can be controlled with a remote control or via a smartphone application. This robot dog is small in size and weighs only 14 kilograms.
The future of robot dogs
Work is currently underway to develop the capabilities of robotic dogs at a rapid pace. Researchers at Duke University in the United States (Duke) have developed a prototype that uses animal stem cells to create an “electronic nose” that can smell and detect explosives, drugs and other contraband, mimicking or exceeding the capabilities of dogs that can trained in this field, but the final model still faces technical obstacles. These must be resolved before it can be used in practice.
Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley managed to use an artificial intelligence technology known as Reinforcement Learning to train a robot dog to walk in the real world from scratch, and it took just one hour to master the step, which will reflect in the future on the cost of the robot dog.
And the robot dog began to be equipped with facial and voice recognition capabilities so that it could work effectively as a robotic eye and ear around sensitive facilities.
Finally, we have not yet seen the use of robotic dogs for security purposes in any Arab country, but we expect this to change soon and be used especially in the civil and military construction sector.