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NYPD terminates robot police dog contract with Boston Dynamics

Following criticism over aggressive policing tactics, the NYPD has ended a $94,000 contract with Boston Dynamics to lease a robotic "Digidog."

Boston Dynamics

The New York Police Department has terminated its $94,000 contract with Boston Dynamics to lease a robotic police dog for use on patrols and investigations, the department confirmed to CNET on Wednesday.

The department leased the robot in 2020 as part of a test run for a new generation of robotic police gear. Equipped with cameras, lights and sensors, the agile robot uses artificial intelligence to navigate complex environments and was even used to safely deliver food to hostages in October.

"We can send it into complete darkness and get an idea of what's going on inside," Deepu John, of the NYPD's Technical Assistance Response Unit, said in an interview last year. In other use cases, the Boston Dynamics robot has proved capable of performing menial tasks like picking up trash and doing laundrymapping manufacturing facilities for Ford; and helping researchers safely explore mines.

However, the robot, which NYPD officers nicknamed Digidog, drew high-profile criticism in February, including from Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who suggested on Twitter that it represented overaggressive policing tactics aimed at poor and underserved communities.

Hours later, the NYPD's official Twitter account tweeted that the department has been using robots in hostage situations and hazmat incidents since the 1970s.

"This model of robot is being tested to evaluate its capabilities against other models in use by our Emergency Service Unit and Bomb Squad," the NYPD account tweeted.

The backlash continued to grow in April after the Digidog was deployed at a public housing building in Manhattan, with critics including New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio telling reporters that the city needed to "rethink the equation" if the Digidog's presence in investigations was unsettling.

As of April 22, the Digidog's days on the beat were over.

Boston Dynamics didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.