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A robot dog is telling people to keep their distance during the pandemic

Singapore has deployed a robot dog to patrol one of its parks, reminding people to keep their distance from one another during the coronavirus pandemic.

Created by the tech wizards at Boston Dynamics, Spot, as it’s affectionately known, is steered around the park remotely. The high-tech contraption includes a built-in speaker that broadcasts a recorded message asking people to “keep Singapore safe” by observing social distancing rules.

An attached camera enables Spot to determine crowd levels at any given moment, with officials promising that the technology at no point tracks, recognizes, or collects personal data linked to specific individuals.

Singapore unveils robot to enforce safe distancing among park

“Spot will be controlled remotely, reducing the manpower required for park patrols and minimizing physical contact among staff, volunteer safe distancing ambassadors, and park visitors [to] lower the risk of exposure to the virus,” officials said in a release, adding, “Unlike wheeled robots, Spot works well across different terrains and can navigate obstacles effectively, making it ideal for operation in public parks and gardens.”

Singapore, which has a population of around 5.6 million people, has only seen around 23,000 cases of the coronavirus, and 20 deaths, according to official data. While it received praise early on for its handling of the crisis, a recent spike in cases suggests the Southeast Asian city-state still has some work to do to beat the virus.

While Singapore has opted to fire up a four-legged robot to encourage people to socially distance, other countries have been using airborne drones to deliver a similar safety message. During the height of their own lockdowns, police in France and Spain both used speaker-drones to ask people to behave appropriately to help prevent the spread of the virus. A city in New Jersey also experimented with drones early last month for the same purpose.

More recently, police in Westport, Connecticut, abandoned a plan to use a so-called “pandemic drone” designed to detect possible cases of the virus after local residents protested against the idea.

As for Spot, this is its second gig linked to the pandemic, the other one being at a hospital in Boston where it’s helping to reduce direct contact between doctors and infected patients by enabling a videoconferencing setup. These are just a few among a growing number of examples of how robot technology is being deployed in the battle against the coronavirus outbreak.

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Trevor Mogg
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