The largest police department in the country deployed its new K-9 companion into a Bronx apartment building while responding to a home invasion early Tuesday morning.
But this particular K-9 wasn’t as cute, cuddly or even furry like its mammalian colleagues. Instead, this good boy features four metal and rubber legs, a face only perhaps only a Cylon could love, and all the grace of a murderous time-traveling cyborg.
Meet “Digidog,” the New York City Police Department’s first robotic “dog.” The department’s new canine toy comes courtesy of Boston Dynamics, the folks who brought you all of those cool (albeit slightly concerning) videos of robots opening doors and doing backflips. Digidog can navigate up stairs, run up to three-and-a-half miles per hour and even talk. Soon, it will be able to open doors on its own.
“The device, which is currently in the test phase, is a robot that weighs 70lbs and is able to use artificial intelligence to navigate its environment,” NYPD spokesperson Sergeant Jessica McRorie told VICE News in an email.
“There are cameras and lights mounted on the device which allow the NYPD to view its surroundings in real-time. Additionally, the device is capable of two-way communication.”
On Tuesday, the department brought Digidog out to the public while responding to reports of a Bronx home invasion, according to police.
“The device was deployed today to the inside of an apartment located within the confines of the 47th Precinct as part of an ongoing investigation,” McRorie continued. “It was determined there were not any individuals inside of the location.”
Even if the police robo-dog didn’t find what it was looking for, its street debut made quite an impression on Bronxites lucky enough to walk past the police scene Tuesday morning.
Passersby can be seen looking on in astonishment and filming with their cellphones.
“That thing is creepy,” one person can be heard saying in the video clip. “How can I get one of those?”
(You can technically purchase one from Boston Dynamics, though it’ll set you back almost $75,000).
Tuesday wasn’t the first time the NYPD brought Digidog out to play. The robot has been used in multiple high-risk police encounters, including in Brooklyn last October, when a suspected gunman barricaded himself in a home. The robot was also used last December when two armed gunmen held five people hostage in a Queens home. Police used Digidog to contact the hostages.
“People wanted food so we strapped food onto it and sent it into the location,” NYPD Technical Assistance Response Unit Inspector Frank Digiacomo told ABC-7 Eyewitness News in December.
Police told the local news station at the time that an attachable arm for Digidog would be available in 2021, allowing it to open doors and move objects when needed.
The New York Police Department isn’t the only American police force to put Boston Dynamic’s groundbreaking technology to use. In 2019, the Massachusetts State Police tested the use of their own Digidog, named Spot. The department said it was interested in its ability to go into dangerous locations and provide officers with images of suspicious devices or armed suspects, according to WBUR.
A long way from Officer McGruff, indeed.