For all those who have seen the animated movie ‘Up’, this invention won’t come as a surprise. This gadget allows you to communicate with your dog in a two-way manner. It is a hi-tech back (harness packed full of sensors) that is capable of sensing a dog’s movement and registering its sounds hence, letting the owner know how the dog feels.
The harness has vibrating pads and speakers that enable owners to be able to communicate with dogs. The applications of this invention vary from service dogs to search and rescue training dogs. Dr. David Roberts from North Carolina State University who is responsible for developing the system said, “We’ve developed a platform for computer-mediated communication between humans and dogs that opens the door to new avenues for interpreting dogs’ behavioral signals and sending them clear and unambiguous cues in return. We have a fully functional prototype, but we’ll be refining the design as we explore more and more applications for the platform.”
The platform, as mentioned before, is merely a harness that snugs onto the dog and comes embedded with a number of sensors and technologies. Assistant professor Dr. Alper Bozkurt of Electrical and Computer Engineering at NC state and co-lead author of the paper pertaining to this project said, “There are two types of communication technologies. One that allows us to communicate with the dogs, and one that allows them to communicate with us.”
Dr. Robert further added, “Dogs communicate primarily through body language, and one of our challenges was to develop sensors that tell us about their behavior by observing their posture remotely. So we can determine when they’re sitting, standing, running, etc., even when they’re out of sight – a harness-mounted computer the size of a deck of cards transmits those data wirelessly. At the same time, we’ve incorporated speakers and vibrating motors, called haptics, into the harness, which enable us to communicate with the dogs.”
The team basically managed to come up with software that was capable of collecting information and transforming it into something useful followed by communication. The software is also capable of transforming human statements into signals that are then relayed by the harness to the animal. Rita Brugarolas, an NC State Ph.D. student (also co-author of the paper pertaining to this) said, “We developed software to collect, interpret and communicate those data, and to translate human requests into signals on the harness.”
The system comes equipped with physiological sensors through which it can register heart rate and body temperature along with other parameters, thus enabling the sensors to relay information that can then ascertain the dog’s emotional state along with the physical condition. This forms the core of the platform; it can be further customized based on the specific requirement.
“For example, for search and rescue, we’ve added environmental sensors that can detect hazards such as gas leaks, as well as a camera and microphone for collecting additional information,” Bozkurt explained.
Sean Mealin, an NC State Ph.D. student and co-author of the paper stated, “We’re also very interested in addressing stress in working dogs, such as guide dogs for the blind. We’re reliant on the physiological and behavioral sensors to give us a picture of the dog’s mental and emotional state. This can help handlers identify and mitigate stress for the dogs, improving the length and quality of a dog’s life. It’s an important issue. Particularly because guide dogs are bred and trained not to display signs of stress in their behavior.”
Pretty amazing, isn’t it?