Service dogs are an undeniable help to the patients that they serve, but what if any dog could better communicate with their owner? Researchers and dog trainers are working towards a future where your dog could call 911 in an emergency, or reliably relay information to their owner, or other humans in the area. Early results are good, though the current hardware may leave a bit to be desired. The proof-of-concept does, however, show that nearly any dog can be trained to help in the event of an emergency.
Melody Jackson is an associate professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology, where she is also the director of the animal-computer interaction lab. The lab is investigating options including a dog-friendly touchscreen that can call 911 and high-tech vests that can be equipped with any number of helpful apparatus based on expected conditions.
For instance, some seizure alert dogs are trained to sense the onset of a seizure, push their handlers against a wall to support their fall and then lick the face of their handlers during the seizure, Jackson said.
“But what if that dog could not just do all of that but reach around and tug a sensor on their vest that calls 911, with their GPS location, and also has a speaker that says, ‘Excuse me, my handler is having a seizure; please stay back,’ ” Jackson said.
In that type of situation, the uses for the vest could be nearly limitless. Jackson also recounted a story with one of her former graduate students. The student is blind, and because his guide dog was unable to properly relay to him that there was wet cement in their well-known path, both ended up stepping into the cement when the student urged the dog to keep walking after it had stopped and refused to move.
The technology is still in its early stages, and the researchers recognize there’s a lot of work that still needs to be done before it’s really viable for widespread use. Jackson’s own dog will successfully use the touchscreen in the way they’ve prescribed to reach out for help, though the touchscreen is basically a rather large TV. The research will continue to work towards making the devices more robust, with longer lasting batteries, and increased accuracy. You can read more about the research at the source link below.
Last Updated on June 21, 2017.