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Spot, Boston Dynamics' robot dog, has joined a police squad
The semiautonomous could help to protect officers, but some are concerned about how exactly police plan to use it.
- Spot is a four-legged, semiautonomous robot developed by Boston Dynamics.
- The robot has been used in at least two police "incidents," according to documents obtained by the ACLU.
- The ACLU said that government agencies should be more transparent about how they plan to use robots in the field.
Spot, the robot dog from Boston Dynamics, is working with a police squad
Massachusetts State Police (MSP) has used Spot — it's four-legged and semiautonomous — in at least two police "incidents," according to documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts.
The documents, first reported by Ally Jarmanning at WBUR in Boston, describe Spot as a "mobile remote observation device" that is an "invaluable component of tactical operations" for state police, but they don't elaborate on the two "incidents" in which the robot was involved. In September, Boston Dynamics began leasing Spot to companies that might benefit from having a robot helper in the field: construction firms, oil, and gas companies, etc.
In dangerous police situations, Spot could help officers identify the location of suspects or bombs, sense hazardous gases and inspect suspicious packages.
"Robot technology is a valuable tool for law enforcement because of its ability to provide situational awareness of potentially dangerous environments," state police spokesman David Procopio wrote in the documents. Spot's features include:
- Top speed: 3 mph
- Average runtime: 90 minutes
- Carrying capacity: 30 pounds
- 360-degree, low-light camera
- Extendable arm
Mass. State Police got to use @BostonDynamics’ Spot the robot dog for three months this year. That’s raising questi… https://t.co/XtOtCqh8U0— ally jarmanning (@ally jarmanning)1574685158.0
What Spot isn't equipped with is a weapon: Boston Dynamics vice president for business development Michael Perry told WBUR that the agreement with MSP included a clause that Spot cannot be used to "physically harm or intimidate people."
"Part of our early evaluation process with customers is making sure that we're on the same page for the usage of the robot," he said. "So upfront, we're very clear with our customers that we don't want the robot being used in a way that can physically harm somebody."
Still, some have expressed concern over the lack of transparency and regulations in police departments using autonomous robots.
Is using robot police dogs worth the risks?
Police departments in the U.S. have used robot helpers for years. In 2016, Dallas officers used a robot loaded with explosives to kill the man who murdered five police officers during a protest, in what was the first time a police robot has been used to kill a suspect. No charges were filed against the officers behind the controls of that police robot.
However, with new technology comes new concerns about how exactly officers will employ semiautonomous robots in the field.
"There is a lot we do not know about how and where these robotics systems are currently deployed in Massachusetts," Kade Crockford, Technology for Liberty program director at the ACLU of Massachusetts, told Gizmodo via email.
In addition to weaponization, Crockford said it's possible for police departments to use Spot with other technologies, for purposes such as surveillance.
"We just really don't know enough about how the state police are using this," Crockford told WBUR. "And the technology that can be used in concert with a robotic system like this is almost limitless in terms of what kinds of surveillance and potentially even weaponization operations may be allowed."
Boston Dynamics said the agreement with MSP is its only "public safety-focused relationship to date," and that robots like Spot can help save officers' lives.
"Sending a nimble robot like Spot into these situations can remove humans from potentially life-threatening environments and provide emergency responders with better situational awareness of a crisis," the company's staff wrote in an email to Gizmodo. "These are the same capabilities that oil and gas, electric utility, nuclear decomissioning [sic] and mining customers will use to perform critical safety inspections without exposing people to risk."
In a statement to TechCrunch, Crockford said that the public "urgently need[s] more transparency from government agencies, who should be upfront with the public about their plans to test and deploy new technologies."
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Construction of the $500 billion dollar tech city-state of the future is moving ahead.
- The futuristic megacity Neom is being built in Saudi Arabia.
- The city will be fully automated, leading in health, education and quality of life.
- It will feature an artificial moon, cloud seeding, robotic gladiators and flying taxis.
The Red Sea area where Neom will be built:
Saudi Arabia Plans Futuristic City, "Neom" (Full Promotional Video)<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c646d528d230c1bf66c75422bc4ccf6f"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/N53DzL3_BHA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Frequent shopping for single items adds to our carbon footprint.
- A new study shows e-commerce sites like Amazon leave larger greenhouse gas footprints than retail stores.
- Ordering online from retail stores has an even smaller footprint than going to the store yourself.
- Greening efforts by major e-commerce sites won't curb wasteful consumer habits. Consolidating online orders can make a difference.
A pile of recycled cardboard sits on the ground at Recology's Recycle Central on January 4, 2018 in San Francisco, California.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images<p>A large part of the reason is speed. In a competitive market, pure players use the equation, <em>speed + convenience</em>, to drive adoption. This is especially relevant to the "last mile" GHG footprint: the distance between the distribution center and the consumer.</p><p>Interestingly, the smallest GHG footprint occurs when you order directly from a physical store—even smaller than going there yourself. Pure players, such as Amazon, are the greatest offenders. Variables like geographic location matter; the team looked at shopping in the UK, the US, China, and the Netherlands. </p><p>Sadegh Shahmohammadi, a PhD student at the Netherlands' Radboud University and corresponding author of the paper, <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/26/tech/greenhouse-gas-emissions-retail/index.html" target="_blank">says</a> the above "pattern holds true in countries where people mostly drive. It really depends on the country and consumer behavior there."</p><p>The researchers write that this year-and-a-half long study pushes back on previous research that claims online shopping to be better in terms of GHG footprints.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"They have, however, compared the GHG emissions per shopping event and did not consider the link between the retail channels and the basket size, which leads to a different conclusion than that of the current study."</p><p>Online retail is where convenience trumps environment: people tend to order one item at a time when shopping on pure player sites, whereas they stock up on multiple items when visiting a store. Consumers will sometimes order a number of separate items over the course of a week rather than making one trip to purchase everything they need. </p><p>While greening efforts by online retailers are important, until a shift in consumer attitude changes, the current carbon footprint will be a hard obstacle to overcome. Amazon is trying to have it both ways—carbon-free and convenience addicted—and the math isn't adding up. If you need to order things, do it online, but try to consolidate your purchases as much as possible.</p><p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>
Building a personal connection with students can counteract some negative side effects of remote learning.
- Not being able to engage with students in-person due to the pandemic has presented several new challenges for educators, both technical and social. Digital tools have changed the way we all think about learning, but George Couros argues that more needs to be done to make up for what has been lost during "emergency remote teaching."
- One interesting way he has seen to bridge that gap and strengthen teacher-student and student-student relationships is through an event called Identity Day. Giving students the opportunity to share something they are passionate about makes them feel more connected and gets them involved in their education.
- "My hope is that we take these skills and these abilities we're developing through this process and we actually become so much better for our kids when we get back to our face-to-face setting," Couros says. He adds that while no one can predict the future, we can all do our part to adapt to it.
Chronic irregular sleep in children was associated with psychotic experiences in adolescence, according to a recent study out of the University of Birmingham's School of Psychology.