Singapore unleashes robot dog to prowl parks and warn about social distancing
Singapore is trialing the usage of a robot dog from Boston Dynamics to assist with social distancing measures in parks, gardens and nature reserves.
The announcement by Singapore’s Smart Nation and Digital Government Group, which comprises its The Smart Nation and Digital Government Office (SNDGO) and Government Technology Agency, has earned widespread coverage for the Massachusetts firm’s four-legged mobile robot.
The robot, called Spot, is designed for industrial sites, including in the construction, oil and gas, electric utility, mining, public safety and healthcare industries. It is based on a rugged and customisable hardware platform, and is able to climbs stairs and traverse rough terrains, while also being small enough for indoor use.
It has an early “track record” in remote operation and autonomous sensing, according to its maker.
The National Parks Board (NParks) in Singapore said said the trial will take place along a three kilometre stretch in the River Plains section of Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park for two weeks during off-peak hours. The robot will broadcast a recorded message to remind park visitors to observe safe distancing measures. A video of Spot on patrol in Singapore was posted by The Straits Times.
The dog’s message to park goers, said in a “softly-spoken” female voice, according to Reuters, runs as follows: “Let’s keep Singapore healthy. For your own safety and for those around you, please stand at least one metre apart. Thank you.”
The unit – remotely controlled but attended by an NParks officer during the trial – features sensors to detect objects and people in its path. It will also be fitted with cameras enabled with GovTech-developed video analytics to estimate the number of visitors in parks.
The cameras will not be able to track or recognise individuals, and no personal data will be collected, said SNDGO. If the trial is successful, units will also be deployed at Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park during the morning and evening, and plans will be drawn up to deploy in other parks as well.
Spot is also being trialled at the Changi Exhibition Centre community isolation facility to deliver essential items such as medicine to patients. SNDGG will also explore the use of SPOT to support other COVID-19 related operations across agencies, it said.