Haptic vest guides working dogs by remote control
Among other things, trained dogs are capable of sniffing out bombs, locating buried survivors at disaster sites, assisting the physically challenged, and performing other important duties. They can't, however, always see or hear their handler's commands. A new vest is designed to help, as it relays gentle vibrational cues.
Similar to a device created at Alabama's Auburn University, the new prototype was developed by a team at Israel's Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. It consists of a commercially-available mesh canine vest, that's equipped with four small vibrating motors located against the dog's back and sides.
In an initial training period, the dog is taught to associate subtle buzzes in certain locations (and of certain durations) with specific commands. Later, when the handler isn't within sight or earshot of the animal, it will still perform those same commands when the motors are activated by wireless remote control.
"Our research results showed that dogs responded to these vibrotactile cues as well or even better than vocal commands," says Prof. Amir Shapiro, director of the university's Robotics Laboratory. "Our current proof-of-concept study shows promising results that open the way toward the use of haptics for human-canine communication."
The scientists now plan on investigating how the technology works with dogs of different breeds, ages, or levels of training experience. It's demonstrated in the video below.
While some people may see this as being merely an extension of traditional dog-handling practises, others might view it more as a sort of canine mind-control. What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments section.