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Mass. bill proposed to ban sales and operation of weaponized robots

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A Boston Dynamics robotic dog at UMass Lowell in 2023.

The Boston Globe, September 2023

Massachusetts could become the first state in the nation to regulate weapons attached to robots, under a bill proposed on Beacon Hill Tuesday. The legislative proposal filed by state Representative Lindsay Sabadosa and Senator Michael Moore would ban the manufacture, sale, or operation of a robot or drone with an attached weapon. The bill would also ban the use of robots to threaten, harass, or physically restrain people.

However, the state’s ban on robots with attached weapons would not apply to the US military, defense contractors, or law enforcement bomb squads. And private companies developing antiweaponization technology, such as a robot that automatically shuts down upon detecting gunfire, could apply for case-by-case waivers from the attorney general. Violations would be punishable by fines of $5,000 to $25,000.

The proposal follows a call last year from robot developers including Boston Dynamics in Waltham for policy makers to outlaw weapons attached to autonomous or remotely controlled devices. While Boston Dynamics and its rivals do not sell robots with attached weapons, videos have cropped up online displaying devices that have been modified with attached guns. Some are made to resemble Boston Dynamics’ Spot, a dog-like robot, with an attached automatic gun — modifications the company doesn’t permit on its devices.

Continue reading at The Boston Globe.

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