The device could help dogs who care for people with disabilities
Imagine if the next time you asked your dog to go “walkies”, it answered back…
It might sound like something out of a cartoon, but thanks to a group of scientists in the USA, doggy dialogue may actually become a reality!
A team at the Georgia Institute of Technology have created a computerised doggy vest that can help our four-legged friends better communicate with their owners – it’s a new field of science they’re calling “animal-computer interaction.”
The idea is that it could help assistance dogs, such as those that work with disabled or blind people, who might need to ask humans for help should something bad happen to their owner.
In emergency situations, assistance dogs are trained to alert another human to the problem, but as it stands, there’s no way for the dog to put into words that they need help.
But the new doggie vest promises to help pooches overcome this by actually allowing them to talk – well, sort of…
The vest includes a handy mechanical lever which, when pulled by the dog, plays an audio message: “My handler needs you to come with me!”
The clever new kit could prove to be life-saving for people with conditions like diabetes, who in an emergency might fall unconscious. With the new device, the doggy helper would be able to run for help and lead a person to their poorly owner very quickly. Search and rescue dogs would even be able to send the location of a missing person using internet signals.
And it isn’t just dogs! Scientists think the technology could also help animals such as cattle and horses communicate with humans when they are unwell, something that isn’t always easy for vets to figure out.
Melody Jackson, head of the FIDO (Facilitating Interactions for Dogs with Occupations) team kitting dogs out with the new vests, said that when people hear the voice, “they jump back three feet, because the dog is talking!”
The vests are already being tested on dogs in the USA, so let’s hope they come to the UK soon, too!