French Army is testing robot dog Spot from Boston Dynamics
The foremost military school of France, École Spéciale Militaire de Saint-Cyr, has posted on Twitter about a recent combat training exercise utilizing robots in offensive operations. Interestingly, one of those machines is Spot, a quadruped robot built by the US firm Boston Dynamics. The company, however, is keen on distancing its products from military applications for obvious reasons.
Army is using robots to prepare soldiers for future battlefields
The military school says that the robots were used to raise awareness of technology among soldiers and to prepare them for the challenges of tomorrow, which include robotization of the battlefield. A report from a French newspaper Ouest-France says that Spot is one of the robots that the French military used to assess the usefulness of robots on the future battlefields.
Robots helped in keeping soldiers safe
The French publication says that the soldiers ran a number of exercises including offensive and defensive actions. Each scenario was first carried out by soldiers and then using soldiers and robots to determine what difference the machines made to combat effectiveness. According to the sources quoted in the article, the robots did slow down the operations but improved troop safety.
Boston Dynamics didn't know the exact mission
Michael Perry, the vice president of business development at Boston Dynamics, told The Verge that Spot was supplied to the French Army by a European distributor Shark Robotics. Although the company was aware that Spot was being used by the French military, it didn't know the details about this particular mission.
Spot is designed for industrial applications
According to Boston Dynamics, Spot is designed for industrial applications and it has sensors to map terrains accurately. The remote-controlled robot has four legs that allow it to navigate tough terrain that would be a challenge for robots with wheels or tracks. So far, Spot has been used for a wide range of tasks such as surveying environments, construction sites, factories, and underground mines.
Boston Dynamics forbids the use of Spot as a weapon
Notably, Spot's terms and conditions forbid it from being used to harm or intimidate any person or animal, use it as a weapon, or enable any weapon. Although Spot is being used in military applications, it can be argued that the robot was helping soldiers to scout buildings and it is technically not harming or intimidating anyone.
Robots can be used to keep humans safe: Boston Dynamics
The original research of Boston Dynamics was funded by the US military. However, the company has distanced its products from military applications as it has started selling the robots to the public. According to Perry, using robotics to keep people out of harm's way is a valid use of technology. However, it is evaluating whether to allow non-weaponized deployments of its robots by militaries.