Boston Dynamics has joined five other leading robotics companies to publish an open letter pledging that general-purpose robots should not be weaponized. Joining Boston Dynamics in the public statement were the following leading robotics companies: Agility, ANYbotics, Clearpath Robotics, Open Robotics, and Unitree.
Each company will ensure their "advanced-mobility general-purpose robots" and software that makes them run will not be weaponized. In addition, they will work to ensure customers also didn't weaponize any of the products for nefarious purposes. They will actively review plans customers have for their products, while also exploring features that would prevent any intended weaponization.
The industry leaders also want lawmakers to work with them to promote the safe use of the robots and prevent possible future misuse.
From their open letter:
"We pledge that we will not weaponize our advanced-mobility general-purpose robots or the software we develop that enables advanced robotics and we will not support others to do so. When possible, we will carefully review our customers' intended applications to avoid potential weaponization. We also pledge to explore the development of technological features that could mitigate or reduce these risks. To be clear, we are not taking issue with existing technologies that nations and their government agencies use to defend themselves and uphold their laws."
There is a clear distinction in what is considered approved use of the technology, as Boston Dynamics has its Spot dog-like robot in use by police and fire departments - but is used for activities such as inspecting suspicious packages or working in dangerous environments that might include explosives or hazardous materials.
Here is what Robert Playter, CEO of Boston Dynamics, said in a statement by Axios:
"We are concerned about recent increases in makeshift efforts by individuals attempting to weaponize commercially available robots... For this technology to be broadly accepted throughout society, the public needs to know they can trust it. And that means we need policy that prohibits bad actors from misusing it."
Although some companies have thankfully expressed thoughts against weaponized robots, there is a clear military trend towards autonomous robotic technology that will clearly be used for military purposes. Even without some of the leading consumer robotics companies not contributing, there are plenty of other manufacturers willing and able to equip robots with machine guns and other military weaponry.
This might be a touchy subject in a politically sensitive world where the United States isn't the only nation with next-generation robotic capability.