The device will reportedly enable dogs to send commands to a human. The potential applications – from disability assistance to bomb-detection to search and rescue – are manifold.
At the Georgia Institute of Technology, visiting associate professor Melody Jackson, professor and Google Glass technical lead Thad Starner, and research scientist Clint Zeagler are working on a system called FIDO, which stands for “facilitating interactions for dogs with occupations.”
Jackson, who has been training assistance dogs for about 18 years, says FIDO is meant to make it easy for the animals to communicate clearly with their handlers (whether a disabled person or a police officer) by activating a sensor on their vest or collar to transmit a verbal command the handler can hear through an earpiece or see on a head-mounted display.
In an early study, the researchers equipped a dog vest with an Arduino microprocessor and tested four different sensors that dogs could activate by biting, tugging, or putting their mouth nearby. The three service dogs participating in the test quickly learned to activate the sensors to set off a tone, Jackson says.
Beyond helping disabled people navigate more effectively, FIDO could enable bomb-sniffing dogs to communicate with handlers remotely about what specific type of bomb they’ve encountered, and rescue dogs could remotely alert a human team that they’ve found an injured person. A grant from Google will allow the researchers to study some of these applications. Eventually, Jackson could even see a device that would let a pet dog alert you if it’s hungry or needs to go out.
As any dog owner will tell you, hunger, excitement over food, and an all-consuming drive to run around outside are all things canines struggle to communicate clearly to their owners. Take this poor animal, for example. What feeling could it possibly be trying to convey? We may never know. Not without a device like FIDO, anyway.
Sarcasm aside, this sounds like a fascinating step forward for the field wearable electronics. For more predictions about the next big breakthrough in wearable tech, check out Tech Review.