Wearable tech hopes to aid communication between dogs and humans
North Carolina State University researchers have recently revealed a new wearable tech harness that has the potential of improving communication between dogs and humans. The harness is detailed in the paper ‘Towards Cyber-Enhanced Working Dogs for Search and Rescue‘ and is packed with sensors that can monitor a dog’s posture and vital signs. The device is said to aid training and help gather data, whilst integrated vibrating motors can be used by owners to communicate with the dog.
“We’ve developed a platform for computer-mediated communication between humans and dogs that opens the door to new avenues for interpreting dogs’ behavioural signals and sending them clear and unambiguous cues in return,” explained Dr. David Roberts, an assistant professor of computer science at NC State. “We have a fully functional prototype, but we’ll be refining the design as we explore more and more applications for the platform.”
Dr Roberts continues to highlight that a dog’s body language is their primary means of communications. By fitting the harness with motion detectors, it helps owners to interpret their pet’s behaviour by observing their posture remotely, whether they’re sitting, standing, running, even when they’re out of sight.
Heart-rate and body-temperature sensors are also embedded so more subtle information about a dog’s wellbeing can also be gathered, and their owners can be alerted if there are any abnormalities. Sean Mealin, a PhD student at NC State who also assisted the project’s development said that revealing and understanding the dog’s emotional state could be particularly useful.
For example, “this can help handlers identify and mitigate stress for the dogs,” he said. “It’s an important issue. Particularly because guide dogs are bred and trained not to display signs of stress in their behaviour”.
In addition, the communication on the harness is designed to be two-way, with speakers and vibrating motors incorporated into the harness, allowing handlers to communicate with the dogs. This could help reinforce training methods, with motors emphasising a spoken command, or to alert the dog if it is a long way away.
The team said that even though there is still work to be done to improve the device’s sensors and reduce the size of the harness, they hope that a consumer version could be used in animal shelters and hospitals in the near future.
Via the BBC