It’s a dog! It’s a cat! Nope, it’s actually a robot — deployed for the sole purpose of reminding people to social distance.
Spot, a four-legged robot built by Waltham robotics company Boston Dynamics, has been sent to Singapore to stroll through a section of Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park and serve as an “ambassador for social distancing,” the company said.
It’s part of a two-week pilot program that started May 8, and if successful, the robot may be used in the park during morning and evening peak travel hours.
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. This lowers the risk of exposure to the virus,” according to a press release jointly issued by Singapore’s Government Technology Agency, Smart Nation and Digital Government Office, and National Parks Board.
Spot has cameras that can estimate the number of park-goers, but it can’t identify specific individuals or store any personal data. It has sensors to track people or objects in its path to avoid collisions.
The robot has been behind other coronavirus-related assistance, too.
In Boston, Spot has been used at Brigham and Women’s Hospital to interview patients who believe they’ve been infected with the coronavirus and to monitor basic vitals. Singapore is using Spot for medical assistance, as well, having the robot bring medication to patients at the Changi Exhibition Centre community isolation facility.
“We’ve seen interest across several other industries in the US and around the the world where physical presence is required but potentially dangerous for workers during the pandemic. This includes tracking progress on construction sites, monitoring power generation facilities for electric utilities, and conducting the last 100 meter delivery of packages," a spokesman for Boston Dynamics wrote in an e-mail.
“We think robots are good at taking people out of dangerous environments.”