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Videos of robotic dogs, especially Boston Dynamics’ Spot model, are usually pretty funny. But this is a video of a completely different genre, which has been circulating on the Web for two days now: the robot dog does not dance to the rhythm and does not do somersaults. Armed with an assault rifle, he takes off target shooting.
The video in question, posted on Twitter on July 20, quickly went viral. We see a robot dog, similar in appearance to those developed by Boston Dynamics, shooting at targets in a snowy environment. Note that the accuracy of the shot is lacking, and the robot also seems to have problems managing the weapon’s recoil. However, this video, just over a minute long, reminds us that these robots, which are mainly intended for assistance or reconnaissance of the area, can also play a more creepy role.
“Anyone who laughed at the ‘anxiety’ about ‘funny dancing robot dogs’ a few years ago should be forced to watch this video once a day for the rest of the year,” writes Sean Chiplock, who posted the video on his Twitter. Account. There is no way to know if the robot is acting autonomously or if a person outside the camera is remotely activating the trigger. However, Vice magazine found that the video was most likely filmed in Russia.
“Toy” of a technical enthusiast
The original video (below) was posted to YouTube in March by one Alexander Atamanov. After doing a bit of research, Vice discovered that Atamov was the founder of Hoversurf, a hovercraft development company. Passionate about technology, he seems to have designed this shooting robot just for fun and doesn’t seem to be inspired by any military ambitions – even though he has officially dubbed this dog “Skynet”, as stated on his Facebook account.
Although it looks like the Spot robot from Boston Dynamics, this model is completely different – as Vice journalists remind, there are many fakes of this robot on the market. The model shown in this video appears to be a UnitreeYusu product that can be found on AliExpress for around $3,000. The weapon is most likely a PP-19 Vityaz, a Russian-made submachine gun.
Please note that on these sides of the robot there are decals: on one side the Russian flag, on the other – the head of a wolf. This wolf head insignia is commonly associated with Russian special operations forces (or spetsnaz), the magazine reports. But it can be bought in different places, and therefore its presence does not mean that the special forces have armed themselves with killer robot dogs … The armored vehicle that we see in the video also confirms the Russian origin of the video: it is a BDRM-2, a Russian vehicle, recognizable by the triangular door, which was recently noticed in Ukraine.
Technology that is difficult to regulate
Boston Dynamics robot dogs are not officially intended for use in armed conflicts. As a rule, they are assigned more “solid” functions, such as performing agricultural work (guarding, crop control, etc.) or inspecting places that are dangerous to humans. American law enforcement agencies use it for surveillance purposes, which is not always welcomed by the population.
However, Spot robots have already been used in a military context – always for reconnaissance – including during military exercises conducted by the French army. According to The Verge magazine, Boston Dynamics VP of Business Development Michael Perry stated at the time that the robot was supplied by European distributor Shark Robotics and that the US firm was not informed of this particular use.
Namely, that Boston Dynamics considers it a point of honor that its machines never turn on. The terms and conditions governing the robot dog explicitly prohibit its use “to injure or intimidate a person or animal, as a weapon or to enable the use of a weapon” or “for any illegal or super-dangerous purpose.” Therefore, point robots have never been equipped with weapons (at least as far as we know).
This does not apply to the Q-UGV, which can be equipped with an automatic sniper rifle developed by Ghost Robotics in partnership with weapons manufacturer SWORD International. Unveiled in October 2021 at the US Army Association’s annual conference, this “killing machine” is capable of hitting a target at a distance of 1,200 meters. Opinions about this technique are divided. While some see it as a springboard to a dark and dangerous world devoid of morality and ethics, others see little difference between these armed robotic dogs and drones or other autonomous ground weapons already deployed.
It should be noted that to date, the use of lethal autonomous weapons is not regulated, despite several unsuccessful attempts by the UN to ban them. The United States and Russia, as well as other countries developing such weapons, strongly oppose any restrictions in this area.