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Singapore turns to robot ‘dog’ to encourage social distancing amid second COVID-19 wave


The Singapore government is attempting to encourage people to practice social distancing by using a popular robot ‘dog’ as the country is beset with problems amid the second wave of the coronavirus. 

The government announced on Friday that it would deploy Spot, Boston Dynamics’ famous yellow and black canine robot at a local park. The robot ‘dog’ will patrol the park and broadcast a pre-recorded message to people, reminding them of the importance of staying away from each other.

Equipped with cameras, the robot will be able to scan their surroundings and help officials gauge the number of people assembling in parks or other public places. “These cameras will not be able to track and/or recognize specific individuals, and no personal data will be collected,” said the government.

Singapore will test the project in one park, during off-peak hours, for two weeks. If it becomes a success, authorities may consider expanding the programme. The development came as the country experienced a new wave of the coronavirus, after Singapore was widely hailed as being one of the few countries to have recovered swiftly from the virus’ impact.

According to data from Johns Hopkins University, Singapore’s coronavirus cases shot up from 266 to 21,707 cases since March 17. This is not the first technological measure that Singapore has come up with to contain the virus, though.

In March, the country came up with a nationwide contact-tracing app that helps users find out if they came into contact with someone who tested positive for the coronavirus.

According to Boston Dynamics, the Spot robot is generally used for inspections on construction sites. It went viral on the internet a few years ago as videos surfaced of the robot mounting stairs, getting people a drink and running uphill.

It is also being used at a local isolation facility to bring medicines to patients. “Unlike wheeled robots, Spot works well across different terrains and can navigate obstacles effectively, making it ideal for operation in public parks and gardens,” said the government.

The robot will not be alone. One park ranger will be accompanying it. 

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