Park-goers in Singapore last Friday (May 8) encountered a friendly dog on the loose during their daily walk — except it was no ordinary canine. The remote-controlled robot dog, by US robotics design company Boston Dynamics, took a turn around Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park while regularly broadcasting a polite message: “Let’s keep Singapore healthy. For your own safety and for those around you, please stand at least one meter apart. Thank you.”
First developed in 2015, “Spot”, as the robot is affectionately named, has been engineered to navigate difficult terrain such as stairs, hilly areas and soft ground more efficiently than its wheeled counterparts. Its body is fitted with multiple cameras and safety sensors and uses a real-time mapping system to avoid collision with moving and inanimate objects within a meter (roughly 3ft).
Spot’s many cameras also enable it to estimate the number of people in a particular area, but it does not retain personal data and cannot track or identity individuals. Spot’s walk around Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park marks the start of its two-week trial in the city before the National Parks Board (NParks) decides on further deployment.
But it’s not the only hardworking automaton out and about the Lion City — over 30 drones have been activated across various parks to monitor visitor density; and another green space in the east, Bedok Reservoir Park, has also seen a driverless, golfcart-sized security car roaming its lanes recently, as part of NParks’ Safe Distance @ Parks initiative.