Local

Boston Dynamics pledges not to weaponize its robots

"Weaponized applications of these newly-capable robots will also harm public trust in the technology in ways that damage the tremendous benefits they will bring to society."

Boston Dynamics' agile mobile robot named Spot, on display in the Seaport District. Jonathan Wiggs/Boston Globe

Boston Dynamics, the company behind advanced robots that have drawn viral attention on social media over the years for hauling trucks, navigating complex environments on their own, and staging a dance-off with Korean pop sensations BTS, pledged Thursday not to weaponize its general-purpose robots. Six other robotics companies also signed the open letter published online. 

“We believe that adding weapons to robots that are remotely or autonomously operated, widely available to the public, and capable of navigating to previously inaccessible locations where people live and work, raises new risks of harm and serious ethical issues. Weaponized applications of these newly-capable robots will also harm public trust in the technology in ways that damage the tremendous benefits they will bring to society,” the companies wrote.

Advertisement:

The pledge was prompted, according to the letter, by a “renewed urgency” felt because of increasing public concern about the issue. A small number of people have “visibly publicized their makeshift efforts” to weaponize commercially available robots created by these companies. 

The companies also pledged not to support other entities that may try to weaponize these machines. They will “carefully review” customer applications whenever possible to avoid weaponization possibilities. 

They called on lawmakers to collaborate with the companies to promote safe use of the robots. 

“We are convinced that the benefits for humanity of these technologies strongly outweigh the risk of misuse, and we are excited about a bright future in which humans and robots work side by side to tackle some of the world’s challenges,” the companies wrote. 

Conversation

This discussion has ended. Please join elsewhere on Boston.com