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Robot ‘dog’ named Spot to help social distancing efforts at Singapore park

Singapore tests out canine-like robot to enforce distancing measures in parks
Singapore tests out canine-like robot to enforce distancing measures in parks.

A four-legged robot dog named Spot is set to help social distancing efforts in one of Singapore’s national parks during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Developed by Boston Dynamics, the yellow and black canine robot is part of a pilot trial to remind park visitors to practise social distancing, says a news release by GovTech Singapore.

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“Let’s keep Singapore healthy,” the robot says. Reuters described its voice as soft-spoken and female.

“For your own safety and for those around you, please stand at least one metre apart. Thank you.”

Spot will be deployed over three kilometres in Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park for two weeks starting May 8. It will patrol during off-peak hours, broadcasting a pre-recorded message reminding people to keep their distance.

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This dog also has cameras that will allow it to estimate how many people are present in the park.

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“These cameras will not be able to track and/or recognize specific individuals, and no personal data will be collected,” the news release said.

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Using Spot, which is controlled remotely, will allow the government to reduce manpower for park patrols and minimize “physical contact among staff, volunteer safe distancing ambassadors and park visitors.”

“This lowers the risk of exposure to the virus,” the release said.

And since Spot can work on various types of terrain, unlike other robots that use wheels, the robotic canine is “ideal” for parks.

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Singapore’s strict lockdown means people need to wear masks all the time when outside. They can only leave home for essential errands such as groceries until June 1.

The city-state of 5.7 million people has one of the highest numbers of cases in Asia, according to Reuters — mostly due to cases among migrant workers residing in crowded dormitories.

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Singapore has reported 20 deaths and 22,460 COVID-19 cases as of Saturday, according to data tracked by Johns Hopkins University.

It isn’t the only country to use an unusual method to keep people apart and reduce the spread of the virus.

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In early April, men and women in Peru were only allowed to leave their homes on specific days, according to Reuters. Panama announced a similar move for specific times for men and women to take transit.

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Health matters: Social distancing key to limiting 2nd COVID-19 wave

People in Chennai, India, were stopped by a traffic officer sporting a “coronahelmet” — a helmet painted red and adorned with spikes, made to look like the now-infamous microscopic image of the coronavirus — in a bid to keep them home during the lockdown, according to media reports by Reuters and other outlets.

— With files by Reuters, Global News reporter Sean Boynton