HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS/SINGAPORE-ROBOT
(Photo : REUTERS/Edgar Su) A four-legged robot dog called SPOT patrols a park as it undergoes testing to be deployed as a safe distancing ambassador, following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Singapore May 8, 2020.

Far from barking its orders, a robot dog allowed by Singapore authorities will help reduce coronavirus infections in the city by asking joggers and cyclists to follow social distancing measures.

HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS/SINGAPORE-ROBOT
(Photo : REUTERS/Edgar Su)
A four-legged robot dog called SPOT patrols a park as it undergoes testing to be deployed as a safe distancing ambassador, following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Singapore May 8, 2020.

Called Spot, the robot will help with safe distancing efforts at parks and nature reserves managed by National Parks Board (NParks) and at parks managed by city councils.

The pilot trial is together conducted by NParks, and the Smart Nation and Digital Government Group (SNDGG).

The four-legged device built by Boston Dynamics was first deployed in a central park this week to join other robots patrolling Singapore's green spaces.

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How Spot can help

The Spot robot will broadcast a recorded message reminding park site visitors to practice social distancing measures, Straits Times reported.

As part of the two-week trial, Spot is deployed over a three-kilometer stretch in the River Plains part of the park during off-peak hours. The robot will likely be monitored by at least one NParks officer.

"Let's keep Singapore healthy," the yellow and black robodog said in English as it roamed around. "For your own safety and for those around you, please stand at least one meter apart; thank you," it added in a softly-spoken female voice.

If the trial becomes successful, NParks will consider deploying Spot for safe distancing efforts at Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park in the morning and evening peak-hours.

Spot robotic is also on trial at the Changi Exhibition Centre community isolation facility, which homes patients with moderate symptoms. The four-legged robot will help deliver essential items such as medicines to patients.

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What else could Spot spot?

Reuters reported that the four-legged robot can navigate obstacles more accurately compared to wheeled robots, making it suitable for different terrains. Spot is likewise provided with protection sensors to locate objects and those within 1 m to avoid a collision.

The robot is equipped with cameras, enabled by GovTech-developed video analytics, to help it estimate the number of site visitors in the parks.

The cameras, however, will not be able to track or monitor specific individuals; neither will it accumulate any private data.

GovTech added Spot with various functions, which include remote control, 3D-mapping, and semi-autonomous operations to facilitate the trial.

It is currently looking to broaden analytics permitting Spot to check if park site visitors are following social distancing measures.

As it's managed remotely, less manpower is needed for park patrols, helping to minimize physical contact among staff, secure distancing ambassadors, and park traffic. This allows decreasing their chance of exposure to the Covid-19 virus.

The SNDGG will also use Spot in assisting other COVID-19-related operations across agencies.

Last month, an independent robot known as O-R3 was deployed at Bedok Reservoir Park by countrywide water company PUB as a type of secure distancing ambassador.

The four-wheeled robotic was first used for surveillance. Still, it now broadcasts safe distancing messages at the park because it patrols the area within the mornings and the evenings when human visitors is at its highest.

Similar robots can be deployed at Pandan and MacRitchie reservoirs.

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