Top robot companies pledge not to add weapons to their tech to avoid harm risk | Robots

Several robot production companies have pledged not to support the weaponization of their general purpose robots and have encouraged other companies to follow suit.

In an open letter, six leading robotics firms promised not to add weapons to their general use technology and said they would oppose others doing so.

“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,” read the open letter, first reported by Axios.

“We also call on every organization, developer, researcher and user in the robotics community to make similar pledges not to build, authorize, support, or enable the attachment of weaponry to such robots.”

The letter was signed by Boston Dynamics, Agility Robotics, ANYbotics, Clearpath Robotics, Open Robotics and Unitree Robotics.

Co-signers also pledged to review applications to buy their robots to prevent possible weaponization and to investigate technological features that could be weaponized in future.

“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,” the letter said.

‘The benefits for humanity of these technologies strongly outweigh the risk of misuse.’ Photograph: Annegret Hilse/Reuters

In a statement to Axios, Boston Dynamics said it was concerned about attempts made to weaponize commercially available robots, adding that such developments could further erode public trust in technology.

“For this technology to be broadly accepted throughout society, the public needs to know they can trust it,” the statement said. “And that means we need policy that prohibits bad actors from misusing it.”

Emergency departments have used Boston Dynamics’s “Spot robot” – a dog-like machine – to survey situations, NPR reported. The company has said the robot was not designed for surveillance or as a replacement for human police officers.

In their open letter, the six robotics companies said they were “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”.