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Videos of robot dogs, especially those featuring the Spot model designed by Boston Dynamics, are often funny. But it’s a video of a completely different kind that has been circulating the Web for two days: the robot-dog does not dance to the rhythm, nor does somersaults. Armed with an assault rifle, he was filmed firing at targets.
The video in question, which was posted on July 20 on Twitter, quickly went viral. We see a robot dog, similar in appearance to those made by Boston Dynamics, shooting at targets in a snowy environment. Note that the shot accuracy is not there and the robot also seems to have trouble handling the recoil of the weapon. However, this video of more than a minute reminds us that these robots, which are usually designed for assistance or reconnaissance purposes on the ground, can also play a more sinister role.
” Anyone who a few years ago laughed at the ‘worry’ scare about ‘funny dancing robot dogs’ should be forced to watch this video once a day for the rest of the year “Wrote Sean Chiplock, who relayed the video on his Twitter account. It is impossible to know if the robot acts autonomously or if a person, located outside the camera, activates the trigger remotely. The magazine Vice it was discovered, however, that the video was probably taken in Russia.
“toy” of a technology enthusiast
The original video (below) was posted on YouTube in March, by Alexander Atamanov. After some research, Vice It is known that Atamov is the founder of the company Hoversurf, which develops hovercraft. Passionate about technology, he seems to have designed this shooting robot just to entertain himself and doesn’t seem to be fueled by any warrior ambitions – although he has officially christened this dog “Skynet”, as specified on his Facebook account.
Although it looks like Boston Dynamics’ Spot robot, this model is completely different – as reporters from Vice, there are many fakes of this robot in the market. The model seen in this video is a UnitreeYusu product, which can be found on AliExpress for around $3,000. The weapon is likely a PP-19 Vityaz — a Russian-made submachine gun.
Note that the robot is marked with different symbols on these sides: the Russian flag on one side, the wolf’s head on the other. This wolf head insignia is commonly associated with Russian special operations forces (or Spetsnaz), the magazine reported. But it can be bought in different places and its presence does not mean that the special forces are equipping themselves with killer dog robots … The armored vehicle that we see in the video also confirms the Russian origin of the video: this t is a BDRM-2, a Russian vehicle recognizable by its triangular door, which was recently spotted in Ukraine.
A technology that is difficult to regulate
Boston Dynamics robot dogs are officially not intended for use in armed conflict. They are often given more “respectable” functions, such as performing agricultural tasks (guarding, controlling crops, etc.), or inspecting areas that are dangerous for people. It is used by American law enforcement agencies for surveillance purposes, which is not always accepted by the population.
However, Spot robots are already used in a military context – for reconnaissance, often – including during military exercises carried out by the French army. According to the magazine The VergeBoston Dynamics vice president of business development, Michael Perry, said at the time that the robot was provided by a European distributor, Shark Robotics, and that the American firm had not been notified of this particular use. .
Which is why Boston Dynamics makes it a point of honor that its machines are never armed. The terms and conditions governing the robot-dog expressly prohibit its use “to harm or frighten a person or animal, as a weapon, or to use a weapon” or “for any unlawful purpose. or extremely dangerous”. So the spot robots have never been equipped with weapons (or at least not to our knowledge).
This is not the case with the Q-UGV robot, which can be used with an automatic sniper rifle developed by Ghost Robotics, together with the weapons manufacturer SWORD International. Presented in October 2021 at the annual conference of the Association of the United States Army, this “killing machine” can hit its target at a distance of 1200 meters. Opinions are divided on this type of technology. If some see it as a springboard to a dark and dangerous world, devoid of morals and ethics, others see little difference between these armed robot-dogs and drones or other autonomous ground weapon already deployed.
It should be noted that until now, the use of lethal autonomous weapons is not regulated, despite several unsuccessful attempts by the UN to ban it. The United States and Russia, and other countries that develop such weapons, strongly oppose any restrictions in this area.