“We’re at the dawn of a new era here, where technology is going to connect us to our pets in ways we haven’t seen before.”
– Professor David Roberts, North Carolina State University
Wouldn’t it be interesting to know what our dogs are actually thinking or feeling when we talk to them? A device that would provide that information might seem far-fetched or the stuff of science fiction, but a new “dog-translator” invention is bringing that possibility closer than ever.
Scientists at North Carolina State University have developed a device that allows humans to talk to their dogs in a new, unique way. However, rather than consider this a fun gadget for canines, the device has serious, practical applications for a wide range of situations – from search and rescue missions, to gauging the stress of service or guide dogs, as well as general obedience training.
The point about helping service dogs is particularly relevant to many of our readers since these canine assistants are exposed to so many different situations. A device that provides information regarding their emotional response would be a boon for service dog training as well as helping his or her human partner to better understand the dog’s reactions.
The Cyber-Enhanced Working Dog harness has a computer, different sensors and vibration motors, all of which is controlled via computer or tablet. According to the researchers, the harness enables humans and dogs to engage in two-way communication via computer. In appearance, the harness looks like those available on line or at the pet store, except this one even includes an automated doggie-treat dispenser!
The treat-reward has an important function. Commands from humans are often inconsistent. With this variation taken away, training dogs could become far more efficient. The dispenser distributes a treat as soon as sensors detect the dog has executed the desired behavior, thereby minimizing the kind of human inconsistency which delays training.
In addition to the current sensors imbedded in the harness, the researchers plan to add other components, such as speakers, microphones, cameras and air quality detectors. These would be invaluable for various types of working dogs, particularly in search and rescue missions.
Roberts also points out that its implications go far beyond emergency situations. This sort of communication device could be used to treat dogs with separation anxiety, to calm anxious puppies at shelters, or to help guide dogs enhance the everyday lives of their owners.
All the electronics information is aggregated and fed to the owner by a computer aptly named BeagleBone Black. Through this platform, one is able to monitor the dog’s movement, emotional state, and outside environment from a distance, as well as give voice and tactile commands.
Vibration motors situated along the dog’s body pulse in varying levels of duration and intensity, with the potential to give hundreds of unique commands, though researchers haven’t tested the limits of the communication system yet. Accordingly, with such a device, you should be able to train your dog to associate feedback with specific actions, much like the way your dog is trained to respond to voice and hand commands.
The current prototype weighs about four pounds, with an eight-hour battery. Next, Roberts says they will try to miniaturize the harness, to reduce the weight by 10 times and make a variety of sizes suitable for smaller dogs.
“My belief is that these types of technologies we’ve been working on will be commercially available in the not too distance future,” Roberts says. “This futuristic harness won’t give you the ability to discuss a dissertation with your pet, but it could bring you and your well-trained pup closer together with more open lines of communication.”
Wow – what an incredible communication device! It boggles the mind to think about it. Imagine the ability to talk to your dog and he actually listens and responds to what you are saying.
I wonder if they can develop one that would fit my husband?
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