Singapore sends out robots to search for 'undesirable' public behavior, like smoking or breaking COVID-19 rules

Singapore has two robots named Xavier that are being tested to prevent undesirable behavior.
Robots are trained to look out for smoking, hawking and violating COVID-19 rules.

Officials said that the robots could report rule-breaking or flash messages to public officials.

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Singapore is testing robots to patrol streets for undesirable social behavior.

Two robots called "Xavier" have cameras that provide a 360-degree field view. They will look for illegal hawkers, smoke in public and flouting COVID-19 regulations, Singapore's Home Team Science and Technology Agency announced on Sunday.

The agency stated that data from Xavier’s cameras feeds into AI-based video analytics software. The agency stated that Xavier will trigger real-time alerts to its command and control center if it detects any of these.

It said that public officers could then "activate additional resource to respond to on the ground situations when necessary".

Xavier displays an “ensure safe distancing” message. REUTERS/Edgar Su

According to the agency, the robots will roam around Toa Payoh Central's high-footfall area, and will also alert officers by displaying messages that "educate" people.

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The agency stated that Xavier's deployment will help public officers because it will decrease the number of foot patrols required and increase operation efficiency.

Singapore isn't the only country that has used robots to police its citizens. Officials deployed robot Spot, a dog-like robot from robotics company Boston Dynamics, in parks to remind people to keep at least one metre distance.

Boston Dynamics' "Spot" robot. Reuters

Others have also tried to integrate robots into law enforcement. California's Huntington Park police station deployed Robocop in June 2019. It was basically a mobile CCTV camera.

The Spot robot was also tested by the New York Police Department in December 2020. However, it was cancelled by Boston Dynamics in May following public outcry.