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This article was published on April 8, 2021

Spot the (robot) dog enlists in the French Army, (battery) dies

The quadruped joined French soldiers on military exercises

Spot the (robot) dog enlists in the French Army, (battery) dies
Thomas Macaulay
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Thomas Macaulay

Writer at Neural by TNW — Thomas covers AI in all its iterations. Likes Werner Herzog films and Arsenal FC. Writer at Neural by TNW — Thomas covers AI in all its iterations. Likes Werner Herzog films and Arsenal FC.

In news that should surprise no one, Boston Dynamics‘ terrifying robot dog is being tested by a military force.

Spot was pictured alongside French soldiers during a series of training exercises at a military school in Brittany.

Spot was one of a number of robots used in the trials, which sought to assess the potential of robotics on the battlefield, Ouest-France reports.

The robots were tested on an offensive action at a crossroads, defensive actions by day and at night, and an urban combat scenario. Each trial was first performed by only military students, and then once again with the assistance of the bot.

Spot was reportedly used for reconnaissance. A source told Ouest-France that it helped keep the soldiers safe, but its battery died during one exercise.

The quadruped was supplied by French distributor Shark Robotics, a partner of Boston Dynamics.

Michael Perry, Boston Dynamics‘ VP of business development, told The Verge that his company knew the French military was using its robots, but wasn’t informed of this specific exercise:

We’re learning about it as you are. We’re not clear on the exact scope of this engagement.

Boston Dynamics previously designed a “robotic mule” for the US military, but the machine was shelved because it was too loud for combat. The Massachusetts-based firm has also received funding from military research agency DARPA and supplied Spot to US police forces for testing.

Spot’s terms and conditions ban the robot from being used “to harm or intimidate any person or animal, as a weapon, or to enable any weapon.” But the company won’t rule out supplying non-weaponized devices to military customers.

Critics say it’s inevitable that the machines will be weaponized — and some of them have already done it. In February, a Brooklyn-based internet collective equipped Spot with a paintball gun that the public could control.

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Update (20:45PM CET, April 8, 2021): Boston Dynamics knew the French military was using its robots, but the company was not aware of this particular use.

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