New Device Allows Further Communication Between Humans and Dogs

Dogs have done plenty to earn their place as man’s best friend. From hunter’s assistant to search and rescue heroes, canines have been a great asset to humans, and with a recent advancement in communication technology, humans may soon be able to return the favor.

Dogs that work in fields like search and rescue are often in the dangerous and stressful conditions, in part due to the fact that rescue dogs are  sent into danger zones where humans can’t follow, leaving them to go it alone without the additional security and comfort of their handlers. As dogs have helped humans, humans are likewise looking out for their furry friends.

Humans David Roberts and Alper Bozkurt, lead writers heading up a research team at North Carolina State University have published a paper on their current research, which is focused on assisting human/canine communication for search and rescue. The ultimate goal is to create a new generation of Cyber-Enhanced Working Dogs (CEWD) using  a cyber-enabled computer-mediated communication platform to help improve communication between handlers and rescue dogs, hopefully reducing the amount of stress there is on the dogs.

Photo Credit: North Carolina State University
Photo Credit: Alper Bozkurt, North Carolina State University

The device itself is mounted to a harness the dog wears comfortably on its back. The system isn’t quite the fantastical device developed by Charles Muntz, the dog loving evil genius from the Pixar film UP, but it would allow handlers to read cues from their canine counter parts remotely.

The device reads posture, heart rate and other biometrics and translates that information to the human handler. If the situation becomes too stressful, the handler can call the dog to safety.

Dogs communicate primarily through body language, and one of our challenges was to develop sensors that tell us about their behavior by observing their posture remotely, so we can determine when they’re sitting, standing, running, etc., even when they’re out of sight – a harness-mounted computer the size of a deck of cards transmits those data wirelessly. At the same time, we’ve incorporated speakers and vibrating motors, called haptics, into the harness, which enable us to communicate with the dogs.  – David Roberts

The current advancement could mean less stress and a longer life for rescue dogs, and in the future could translate into casual dog owners having a better idea about whats going on in those fuzzy heads. Obviously, we are all looking forward to the ultimate advancement in canine communication.

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