Researchers based at the Georgia Institute of Technology are training dogs to use touchscreens in order to call the emergency services. The project is called FIDO and the aim is to develop technology for service dogs. The canines will then be able to summon help for their owners if they collapse or need assistance for any reason.
The research team have already developed a vest which enables dogs to deliver messages and transmit their GPS co-ordinates. The vest features a toy for dogs to chew and a rope for them to pull to make a call or send a message.
Now the team are working on touchscreen devices which dogs can be trained to activate if their owner runs into trouble.
Training Under Way
The equipment is still at the prototype stage but dogs are currently being trained to use it. They are taught to approach a TV-sized screen and use their noses to select a call to the emergency services when they hear the word “help”. The technology could save many lives around the world. The system could also be programmed to call a family member or carer. Although aimed primarily at service dogs, companion dogs of the disabled and the elderly could also be trained to use the system.
The buttons on the screen are coloured blue and yellow as these colours are easy for dogs to see and distinguish between. There are a maximum of three buttons so that dogs don’t accidentally select the wrong one.
The technology could prove useful to the military as it would enable sniffer dogs to identify to their handler which type of explosive they have detected.
The new systems enable canines to communicate with humans very clearly so that even an untrained person will be able to understand what is going on. The vests are capable of issuing an audible message so dogs can run up to anybody and explain that their owner requires assistance. The touchscreens could be programmed to do almost anything at the dog’s command and so there is no limit to the potential applications.
Who knows, your dog may soon be able to call you to let you know that all is well at home, or to tell you that somebody has broken into your house!
If you could commission scientists to develop new software for your pet, what application would you like to have?