Wearable devices could offer more interactivity than laptops, smartphones, or tablets as a research project at Georgia Tech called FIDO (Facilitating Interactions for Dogs with Occupations) is exploring ways to create wearable devices for our canine companions.
We are just starting to see the early adopters of wearable computing wandering the streets gazing through Google’s optical computer or staring down at their Pebble smartwatch. As Google Glass gains yet more and more momentum, researchers are trying to decide what will be the next big breakthrough in wearable technology. Among the more outlandish ideas researchers are experimenting with are sensors embedded in clothing and teeth and, as we discover, a wearable computer designed for dogs. After working long hours under strip lights in labs for years, our canine friends finally get a break, working outside the lab with some new technology.
At the Georgia Institute of Technology, visiting associate professor Melody Jackson, professor and Google Glass technical lead Thad Starner, and research scientist Clint Zeagler are working on a the FIDO system. Jackson, who has been training assistance dogs for about 18 years, says “FIDO is meant to make it easy for the animals to communicate clearly with their handlers, whether this be a disabled person or a police officer, by activating a sensor on their vest or collar to transmit a verbal command the handler can hear through an earpiece or see on a head-mounted display”.
In an early study, the researchers equipped a dog vest with an Arduino microprocessor and tested four different sensors that dogs could activate by biting, tugging, or putting their mouth close to. The three service dogs participating in the test quickly learned to activate the sensors to set off a tone. A paper detailing the group’s initial findings will be presented at ISWC.
Beyond helping disabled people navigate more effectively, FIDO could enable bomb-sniffing dogs to communicate with handlers remotely about what specific type of bomb they have encountered and rescue dogs could remotely alert a team that they have found an injured person.
A grant available from Google will allow the researchers to study some of these applications. Eventually, Jackson could even see a device that would let a pet dog alert you if it’s hungry or needs to go out. “At first people are going to say it’s weird,” Jackson says, “but then everybody will want one.” I wonder if the pet pooch will be as picky with their dinner as we are? One bark for Yes, two barks for No? or is that one beep for Yes and two beeps for No?
[Image via iPaT.gatech]