Click to viewIf you have a pet dog or cat, chances are your furry pal has an embedded microchip that allows animal shelters to find out who the owner is in the event of an escape or pet-napping. Imagine if that same chip could tell a dog to go home or relay instructions directly from the owner, even if the dog was miles away. That's the sort of technology being pursued by the USDA's Agricultural Research Service, which can remotely direct cows and even calm them down.

In the USDA experiment, cows equipped with special ear receivers (like iPods for cows) receive signals from a remote controlling station. By giving them irritating stimuli, such as unpleasant sounds, they can direct the cows to move in a certain direction. They can even play them traditional "gathering songs" used by cowboys to group the herd. Based on invisible fence technology used by ranchers, the devices were upgraded by MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory to include GPS and a full suite of animal diagnostics. That could make it very easy to track and return a lost pet, and it could be a huge boon to biologists who track and study wildlife. Image by: Flikr.

A Futuristic Linkage of Animals and Electronics. [U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service]