A robotic dog recruited by the Singapore authorities to remind citizens of the rules for social expulsion was received with unease.
The Internet quickly branded the robot “disturbing” when footage of the thin-legged car that guarded city parks emerged.
The dog-like robot was launched to help contain coronavirus infections. The capture of the robot captures it politely by asking joggers and cyclists to keep separate.
But Twitter users have noticed how the park users in the movie have moved away from the robot, defining its “dystopian” use and drawing comparisons with the plots of the Black Mirror TV series.
Others asked if the robot called “SPOT” could get a job to strengthen the UK blockade, while the British are desperate in scenes of parks full of alcoholic picnics and in the neighborhoods they organize VE Day street parties.
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The four-legged remote controlled machine, built by Boston Dynamics, was first used in a central park on Friday and is named after the famous canine character of children’s books, Spot.
It is used as part of a two-week trial that could see him join other robots who patrol Singapore’s green spaces during a nationwide blockade.
“Let’s keep Singapore healthy,” you can hear the yellow and black robot named SPOT saying in English as he wanders around.
“For your safety and for those around you, please stay at least a meter away. Thanks,” he added, in a soft female voice.
But some fear that the use of the robot to monitor social distancing could be a gateway to more sinister surveillance techniques.
Singapore’s strict blocking rules can result in heavy fines and even jail time.
The city-state of 5.7 million people has more than 21,000 Covid-19 cases, one of the highest talents in Asia, largely due to mass infections among migrant workers who live in cramped dormitories in areas rarely visited by tourists.
According to the rules to impose the blockade in place until June 1, residents can only leave their home for essential travel such as shopping and must wear a mask at all times in public.
Outdoor exercise is allowed but must be done alone.
American journalist and investigative lawyer Glenn Greenwald wrote on the robo dog’s Twitter: “One of the most disturbing and dystopian things I have seen since the pandemic began: a terrifying remote-controlled robot patrol equipped with a camera, Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park in Singapore to – for now – warn against social issues.
“Look at the fear.”
Lebanese geopolitical commentator Sarah Abdallah wrote on Twitter: “A four-legged, camera-controlled robot is patrolling a park in Singapore to impose social distancing amid the # COVID19 pandemic.
Concern about the use of artificial intelligence such as robo-dog joins the growing fear of creeping surveillance in the responses of government coronaviruses around the world.
Privacy activists issued warnings as governments manage wider police powers to enforce blocking rules and evidence has been launched on cell phone tracking apps in many jurisdictions, including the UK, to track infections from coronavirus.
In Singapore, another toy car robot was deployed in a nearby tank to warn visitors that “don’t delay” and that “rallies are not allowed”.
The authorities behind the latest trial – Singapore’s government technology and cyber security agencies – said in a statement that SPOT could better cross rough terrain in parks and gardens.
In addition to transmitting messages that remind visitors of social distance measurements, SPOT is equipped with cameras and analysis tools to estimate the number of people in the park.
The authorities said that the cameras would not be able to track people or record personal data.
SPOT has recently been tested for use in a temporary hospital for the delivery of medicines to patients.