Elected officials and local authorities across the United States and around the world should consider replicating an innovative legislative proposal that would prohibit police from arming robots used in their law enforcement operations. The bill, introduced on March 18 by New York City council members Ben Kallos and Vanessa Gibson, would "prohibit the New York City Police Department (NYPD) from using or threatening to use robots armed with a weapon or to use robots in any manner that is substantially likely to cause death or serious physical injury." The proposed law comes after a social media outcry over the use of an unarmed 70-pound ground robot manufactured by Boston Dynamics in a policing operation last month in the Bronx. US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez criticized its deployment "for testing on low-income communities of color with under-resourced schools" and suggested the city should invest instead in education. In a statement published in Wired and other news outlets, Boston Dynamics CEO Robert Playter said that the company's robots "will achieve long-term commercial viability only if people see robots as helpful, beneficial tools without worrying if they're going to cause harm."
The public narrative around home robotics is largely split between social and functional robots, which differ in the types of services offered and their potential impact on jobs and roles traditionally filled by humans. Functional robots (seen below left) are built to handle specific tasks--cleaning, cooking, gardening, and security, to name a few--and could drastically affect the domestic labor market. Coverage jumped in January 2018, when LG showcased three new concept robots: Serving Robot, Porter Robot, and Shopping Cart Robot at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2018. Quid also found articles that mentioned a robot that can climb walls to clean and sort tupperware, one that can show your home to potential renters, and a home monitor that tells you if your kids walk the dog. Social robots (below right) aim to meet your emotional needs and are developed to provide companionship, care, or instruction.
Long gone are the days when talk of the existential threat of robots was confined to science fiction. Killer robots are a real worry today. So much so that thousands of academics, scientists, and engineers have signed a petition as part of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots. Thankfully, we still have time to make a change by putting laws in place that will prevent governments from developing these technologies unchecked. Robots are a long way from being the Skynet monstrosities we see in the movies.
When industrial robots were first introduced in the early 1960s initially on automobile assembly lines computers were still in their infancy, so the robots were designed to perform only the most rigidly predetermined set of repetitive movements. But according to Rodney Brooks, who last year left a tenured position as MIT s Panasonic Professor of Robotics to focus on his latest company, that may not be true for much longer. Brooks s lips are sealed, as The Economist put it last week, about what exactly he and Heartland Robotics are up to in a converted warehouse in South Boston s Innovation District. But venture capitalists have already gambled $32 million on the premise that whatever it is they produce, it s going to set a whole new direction in the field. Brooks, now the chairman and chief technology officer of Heartland Robotics, spoke at MIT on April 20, addressing a recently formed student entrepreneurship group called do.it@MIT.
In its secretive R&D department, Honda has been developing a bipedal disaster robot designed to climb through crumbled buildings. Honda unveiled the prototypical E2-DR robot last week at the 2017 International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems in Vancouver, reports IEEE Spectrum. As the Honda video shows, the E2-DR robot can climb ladders, ascend stairs, crawl through tight spaces, and manipulate its body to squeeze through cracks. SEE ALSO: Robotics expert Dr. Ross Mead reveals the truth about your favorite movie robots The five and a half-foot tall E2-DR is specifically designed to enter extreme environments that humans can't -- or shouldn't. According to Honda, these robots will act as first responders "in social infrastructures, such as plants," as they'll be mostly immune to toxic chemicals and noxious air.