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Boston Dynamics vows it won’t develop weaponized robot army

Arnold Schwarzenegger and other terminators will not “be back” anytime soon, at least according to Boston Dynamics, which pledged the cutting-edge robotics company will not create a lethal army of killing machines. 

The Waltham, Mass.-based firm committed to not weaponizing its products and discouraged the weaponization of robots in general in an open letter released Thursday.

“We believe that adding weapons to robots that are remotely or autonomously operated, widely available to the public, and capable of navigating to previously inaccessible locations where people live and work, raises new risks of harm and serious ethical issues,” the letter read.

The company’s four-legged robot named Spot is embedded with some police departments in the US and around the world. Spot had a brief stint with the NYPD, but was unplugged in March 2021 because people found it to be too creepy.

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Boston Dynamics insisted that all of its law enforcement products are designed to conduct dangerous tasks like inspecting suspicious packages or searching structurally dangerous environments, not cause any harm. 

Five other robotics companies, including Agility Robotics, ANYbotics, Clearpath Robotics, Open Robotics and Unitree Robotics signed onto the letter.

Not everybody is convinced that a Skynet uprising will be avoided in the near future. 

“If this was a movie, this would have been used as one of the stepping stones of the flashback explaining how we got to the present day, immediately followed by ‘first boston dynamics robot jailbroken’ and ‘robot causes mass murder in the US,’ tweeted Diego Monica, founder of Anchorage Digital crypto platform. 

If this was a movie, this article would have been used as one of the stepping stones of the flashback explaining how we got to the present day. Immediately followed by "first boston dynamics robot jailbroken" and "robot causes mass murder in the US".https://t.co/bMekCRXuKq

— Diogo Mónica (@diogomonica) October 6, 2022

Another Twitter user mocked the announcement, writing, “BREAKING NEWS: Boston Dynamics CEO had two fingers crossed behind his back, in a classic boardroom strategy.”

On top of pledging not to invest in weaponizing its robots, Boston Dynamics said it is also committed to stopping consumers from doing so aftermarket. 

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dpa/picture alliance via Getty I

“We are concerned about recent increases in makeshift efforts by individuals attempting to weaponize commercially available robots,” Boston Dynamics CEO Robert Playter wrote in an email statement to Axios

Playter added that beyond the company’s ethical values, the weaponization of robots poses a threat to the business as it scares the public away from robotic innovation.

“For this technology to be broadly accepted throughout society, the public needs to know they can trust it. And that means we need policy that prohibits bad actors from misusing it,” he wrote. 

The company’s pledge comes amid a frenzy of conversation about creepy automatons after Elon Musk revealed his “Optimus” humanoid robot last week. 

One Twitter user wrote, “I think Tesla and Boston Dynamics need to have a Bot Battle. I know who I got MY money on.”