Major Robotics Vendors Sign Letter Denouncing Weaponizing General-Purpose Robots

The companies said they wrote the letter in response to several videos circulating on social media of individuals putting weapons on commercially available robots.

Boston Dynamics

Boston Dyanmics' Spot robot is among those in videos showing unauthorized user modifications.
Boston Dynamics, Agility Robotics, ANYbotics, Clearpath Robotics, Open Robotics, and Unitree have all warned against adding weapons to robots that are already commercially available.

Last week, Boston Dynamics Inc., along with several other robotics companies and organizations, signed an open letter to the robotics industry denouncing the potential weaponization of general-purpose robots.

Other signatories included Agility Robotics, ANYboticsClearpath Robotics, Open Robotics, and Unitree.

“We are hopeful this coalition of industry leaders and our strength in numbers will encourage policymakers to engage on this issue to help us promote the safe use of mobile robots and prohibit their misuse,” a spokesperson for Boston Dynamics told Robotics 24/7.

Waltham, Mass.-based Boston Dynamics said the companies signed the letter in response to several videos making the rounds on social media of people adding weapons to commercially available robots.

“As with any new technology offering new capabilities, the emergence of advanced mobile robots offers the possibility of misuse,” the companies wrote in the letter. “Untrustworthy people could use them to invade civil rights or to threaten, harm, or intimidate others.

“One area of particular concern is weaponization. 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,” they added.

Boston Dynamics said it hopes the letter will “spur a broader dialogue ultimately leading to a policy framework promoting the safe and responsible use of general-purpose robots.”

In an emailed statement to Robotics 24/7, Tim Smith, an Open Robotics spokesperson, said the companies were coming together as “industry leaders” to take a stand.

“We are all companies with products out in the market today that are widely available for commercial and industrial use, or in some cases even more broadly to the general public,” he said.

Notably, the organizations specified in the letter that they are not against government agencies using “existing technologies” for defense and law-enforcement purposes. 

The letter is reposted in its entirety below:

Agility Robotics' future of robotics video.

About the Author

Cesareo Contreras's avatar
Cesareo Contreras
Cesareo Contreras was associate editor at Robotics 24/7. Prior to working at Peerless Media, he was an award-winning reporter at the Metrowest Daily News and Milford Daily News in Massachusetts. Contreras is a graduate of Framingham State University and has a keen interest in the human side of emerging technologies.
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Boston Dynamics

Boston Dyanmics' Spot robot is among those in videos showing unauthorized user modifications.

Robot Technologies