New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

The Verge

The Verge The NYPD is sending its controversial robot dog back to the pound by James Vincent

The NYPD is sending its controversial robot dog back to the pound

Critics say the machine illustrated the unnecessary militarization of the police

The New York Police Department has canceled its trial of a robot dog made by US firm Boston Dynamics after receiving fierce criticism regarding the “dystopian” technology.

“The contract has been terminated and the dog will be returned,” a spokesperson for the NYPD told the New York PostJohn Miller, the department’s deputy commissioner for intelligence and counterterrorism, told The New York Times that the machine was “a casualty of politics, bad information and cheap sound bytes.” Said Miller: “People had figured out the catchphrases and the language to somehow make this evil.”

The NYPD began leasing the machine nicknamed Digidog last year. “This dog is going to save lives, protect people, and protect officers and that’s our goal,” said the NYPD’s Frank Digiacomo in an interview with ABC7. The robot was deployed roughly half a dozen times during its tenure, mostly acting as a mobile camera in potentially hostile environments.


“The NYPD has been using robots since the 1970s to save lives in hostage situations & hazmat incidents,” said the department in February. “This model of robot is being tested to evaluate its capabilities against other models in use by our emergency service unit and bomb squad.”

Many, though, saw the robot as a symbol of both wasteful police spending and increasingly aggressive tactics being deployed by law enforcement. “Now robotic surveillance ground drones are being deployed for testing on low-income communities of color with under-resourced schools,” tweeted NYC Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in February.

In response to outcry over the machine, New York City Council Member Ben Kallos proposed a law that would ban the police from owning or operating weaponized robots. “I don’t think anyone was anticipating that they’d actually be used by the NYPD right now,” Kallos told Wired earlier this year. ”I have no problem with using a robot to defuse a bomb, but it has to be the right use of a tool and the right type of circumstance.”

Kallos told the Times this week that deploying Digidog on the streets of New York City highlighted the ongoing “militarization of the police.” Said Kallos: “At a time where we should be having more beat cops on the street, building relationships with residents, they’re actually headed in another direction in trying to replace them with robots.”


Spot, as the machine is called by creators Boston Dynamics, has never been weaponized, and doing so would break the company’s terms of service. But it is being deployed in increasingly controversial situations. Although the company has currently sold or leases around 500 Spot units, with most of the robots being used in commercial and industrial settings, such machines are of increasing interest to both law enforcement and military users.

Earlier this month, it emerged that the French military has been testing Spot in combat exercises. Boston Dynamics told The Verge at the time that while it knew the robot was being leased to the army, it was unaware it was being used in these exact scenarios. Spot was not weaponized in these exercises but used by soldiers for forward surveillance.

Speaking to The New York Times, a spokesperson for Boston Dynamics said, “We support local communities reviewing the allocation of public funds, and believe Spot is a cost-effective tool comparable to historical robotic devices used by public safety to inspect hazardous environments.”

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The Verge New York City is cracking down on plastic bottles by Justine Calma

New York City is cracking down on plastic bottles

New York City is cracking down on plastic bottles

Mayor Bill de Blasio signed an executive order to eliminate plastic bottles from city agencies and properties

USA - Technology - Wired NextFestPhoto by Ramin Talaie/Corbis via Getty Images

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio signed an executive order yesterday banning the sale of single-use plastic beverage bottles on city-owned and -leased properties — which means the bottles could vanish from an area nearly equivalent to a quarter of the city. The move also bars city agencies from purchasing or selling beverages packaged in single-use plastic containers.

The move would eliminate at least 1 million single-use plastic beverage bottles that the city buys each year, according to the executive order. It could also have wider-ranging effects since the city owns or leases over 17,000 properties spread over an area about twice the size of Manhattan (roughly 43,000 acres). That includes city parks — and, by extension, The Trump Organization’s two skating rinks in Central Park and golf course in Ferry Point Park in the Bronx.


“Take that Trump,” city councilman Ben Kallos tells The Verge. Kallos introduced two bills in 2018 that would stop the city from selling single-use plastic bottles on city property. He’s still pushing for the city council to pass legislation to codify the ban into law, in case another mayor down the line tries to undo de Blasio’s executive order.

“We can change what normal is and get to a more sustainable future,” Kallos says. “We don’t have a choice because there is a climate emergency and we can show Trump the right way to do it.”

In 2017, Donald Trump ended restrictions on bottled water sales in US National Parks that had been in place since 2011. He’s also rolled back dozens of environmental protections since taking office. The Verge reached out to The Trump Organization’s golf course and ice rinks in Manhattan and did not receive a response by time of publication.

The new ban in New York City would go into effect by January 1st, 2021. It applies to bottles 21 fluid ounces or less, and some exceptions would be made “where reusable options are infeasible,” according to the executive order. It’s also important to note that New York City tap water is considered safe to drink, which makes the transition to reusable containers more feasible than in places like Flint, Michigan, where tap water has made residents sick.


New York City would likely become the first municipality to limit plastic bottle sales for not just water, but all beverages. San Francisco decided in 2014 to stop selling bottled water on city property and expanded that policy to San Francisco International Airport last year. Concord, Massachusetts, passed a city ordinance in 2012 ending the sale of bottled water anywhere in the town.

Plastic pollution is covering the planet, making its way into the bellies of sea life and exacerbating the climate crisis because it’s made with fossil fuels. Less than 10 percent of all plastics that have been thrown away have actually been recycled.

“They are hurting the earth,” de Blasio said as he signed the executive order yesterday. “We don’t need them. Time to get rid of them.”