Hyundai's Robot Dogs Are Joining The New York Fire Department

Technology / Comments

These doggos will boldly go where no pooch has gone before.

Hyundai has been pushing the envelope for the past few years. Not only in terms of its vehicles, but in numerous fields of technology. The Korean manufacturing giant is currently working on a bold new EV strategy that aims to take the fight directly to foes like Tesla with new cars such as the Ioniq 5, and while all of this is happening, it still finds the time to develop an air taxi service, and train robotic dogs to work in its factories. In September of last year, we reported on Hyundai's fleet of dog robots that assist with small tasks around the Kia production plant in South Korea. Now the brand wants to step things up a notch or ten; it's sending its robo-dogs to help US firemen.

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The robot dog, developed by Boston Dynamics, will join firefighters across the US to combat flames, and save lives. The US fire department is no stranger to robotic assistance, however; the department first put a robot to work back in 2014. The "Super Droid" was developed by Caterpillar but proved to not be dexterous enough to face the many challenges of a real-life fireman, including risky tasks such as climbing stairs, or over stuff. Hyundai has been heavily involved in robotics since 2018, and last year bought over Boston Dynamics, the company responsible for some of the most advanced and capable robotic assistance ever created, including Atlas, the humanoid robot that can do human-level acrobatics. Manufacturers such as Ford have also been working on robotic assistants, and it should prove to be a booming industry in the years to come.

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According to the New York Times, Hyundai and Boston Dynamics signed a contract with the New York Fire Department for two of the advanced robotic dogs at $75,000 a pop. These robotic dogs feature 360-degree thermal cameras and can open and close doors, as well as scale rough terrain. The NYPD faced severe backlash after it attempted to deploy the same tools last year: it turns out that people don't like dystopian robo-hounds sniffing around their neighborhoods. Using these robots in a fire or emergency situation to rescue survivors might help change the public perception of these machines.

"The TV industry and the movie industry are hurting us in some ways because they often show pictures of robots that are weaponized, and then people think that's how all robots are," said Capt. Michael Leo from the Fire Department's robotics unit. "Then people think that's how all robots are."

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Bronx Borough President Vanessa L. Gibson reminded the New York Times that the fire that claimed 17 people's lives earlier this year in the New York suburb could have been prevented by using these robots. Concerns surrounding privacy, surveillance, and cybersecurity still linger after the PR disaster that was the Police Department's stint with these machines, but some experts believe the Fire Department could put a heroic spin on these fearless 'dogs'.

"There are always concerns over robots capturing imagery of tragic scenes, and you do want to see strong control of that information once it's collected," said Peter Asaro, co-founder of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control. "Other than that, I don't really see any situations where the Fire Department could use this in a way that potentially hurts people."

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Source Credits: New York Times

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