The awesome development of robot dogs was tainted last year when military defence company Ghost Robotics tailored the tech for war. In an unforgettable move, the once-heralded tech was immediately feared when images of the company's rifle-equipped model was shared online.
Shortly afterwards, the company's robot was granted to the United States Department of Homeland Security to guard the U.S-Mexico border. As it turns out, the move to automate the country's anti-immigrant policies was not taken well by the general public.
Ghost Robotics claims there's “nothing to be afraid of”
In an interview with CNN, Ghost Robotics CEO Jiren Parikh claimed that citizens shouldn't be afraid of the technology. Despite the dystopian, Fahrenheit 451-esque mechanical hounds being used to rat out would-be immigrants, the CEO claims everything is alright.
"We're focused on doing the right thing,” the CEO said. “We want to do the right thing for the national security and for the country... It's a battery-operated computer that moves around on four legs that literally stops operating in four hours. There's no way they're going to be taking over anything.”
The CEO said that the border-patrolling robots are “a good way of technology adding value”, making America seem more secure in the process. With the border being described as “inhospitable for man and beast”, the machines can do a better job than Border Control can.
Parikh claimed that the border control robots will not be equipped with the company's signature backpack-rifle. He said:
“That's not what it's made for. There's no weapons on it. It's not being militarized for the border. That's not even come up ever. It's not even a remote use case that's ever discussed or talked about. Do we really think we're going to start weaponizing robots? It's silly to do that."
People are unconvinced
Parikh's comments have done little to convince activists and officials to back the robotic dogs patrolling the border. Greg Nojeim, co-director at the Center for Democracy and Technology, believes that this is just the first step in gun-toting robots at the border.
“The border has become a testing ground for new and intrusive surveillance technology,” he said. “Once the platform becomes accepted, believe me, new uses will be developed. It's inevitable. And I don't think we're ready as a society to say, this use is permissible, this is not. I'm concerned that the technology is getting ahead of the law."
Director of the Southern Border Communities Coalition, Vicki Gaubeca, echoed Nojeim’s sentiments.
“There are other technologies that they're already using that we feel like they should cut back on, and yet they're adding on another type of surveillance technology that's frightening, to be honest," she said. "This certainly seems like it's something that's built for something very aggressive, like the theaters of war, rather than in a community.”