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Boston Dynamics Spot robot dog reminds park visitors to maintain distance

The dog-like robot is getting a trial run as a social-distancing reminder machine in Singapore.

This promo photo shows a Spot robot outdoors.
Boston Dynamics
For the most up-to-date news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, visit the WHO and CDC websites.

Singapore residents are able to go outside and exercise in their neighborhood parks as a break from the government's stay-at-home recommendations during the coronavirus pandemic. Visitors to the Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park may encounter the unusual sight of a bright-yellow Boston Dynamics Spot robot dog with an important message.

Spot will be strolling the scenic river park during off-peak hours to broadcast a message reminding park-goers to observe proper social distancing. Singapore's National Parks Board (NParks) and the Smart Nation and Digital Government Group are partnering on the trial, which is scheduled to run for two weeks. 

A remote operator will manage Spot, and the robot sensors will help it avoid people and obstacles in its path as it patrols. It will have an NParks human minder for company during the test period. 

The Straits Times posted a short video of Spot out for a walk in Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park.

Spot sports cameras that will be used to estimate the number of visitors at the park. "These cameras will not be able to track and/or recognize specific individuals, and no personal data will be collected," Singapore's GovTech agency said in a release on Friday.

Singapore was hailed for its effective early COVID-19 response, though it later implemented stricter lockdown measures in April

Singapore is already using a Spot robot to deliver medicine and other needed items to patients at a community isolation facility. Boston Dynamics' robo-dog also went to work in Boston as a telemedicine provider safely linking medical staff with patients in need of health assessments.

Spot's efforts show just a few of the creative ways robots are getting put to work to aid in the pandemic response. Robot helpers have enforced lockdown rules in Tunisia, stood in for graduating university students in Japan and staffed a smart hospital in China.

If the Singapore park trial goes well, Spot may get more work during peak hours. The program could also be expanded to other locations. When an eye-catching robot dog tells you to keep your distance, it's hard not to listen.