US Army working on AR glasses for military dogs
The United States Army is developing augmented reality goggles for military dogs. The technology is being designed to enhance communication between the dog and its human handler, allowing for more remote commanding of the animal.
Communication between military working dogs and their handlers generally requires the handler to be in close proximity to the animal. Verbal commands, hand signals, and even laser pointers are often used to direct the canines. However, in some military contexts it can be unsafe for a handler to be close to the animal, so there is a need for some of technology that enables commands to be delivered without a human being close by.
In the past, cameras and walkie talkies have been used to remotely communicate with military dogs but these methods can frequently lead to confusion in the animals. The new system being developed uses augmented reality to provide a visual cue for the dogs while a camera in the goggles offers a live feed of the canine’s point-of-view for the handler to monitor.
“Augmented reality works differently for dogs than for humans,” explains Stephen Lee, a senior scientist in the Army Research Office. “AR will be used to provide dogs with commands and cues; it’s not for the dog to interact with it like a human does. This new technology offers us a critical tool to better communicate with military working dogs.”
The system, currently in its prototype stages, uses a type of protective glasses that military dogs are already trained to wear. Each device is customized, with the dog being 3D scanned so the system can be specifically constructed for the animal.
“Even without the augmented reality, this technology provides one of the best camera systems for military working dogs,” Lee suggests. “Now, cameras are generally placed on a dog’s back, but by putting the camera in the goggles, the handler can see exactly what the dogs sees and it eliminates the bounce that comes from placing the camera on the dog’s back.”
The project is managed by the Army Research Office but the technology has been specifically developed by a company called Command Sight. Founded in 2017 by A.J Peper, Command Sight is a start-up investigating technological solutions to improve communication between humans and animals.
“We are still in the beginning research stages of applying this technology to dogs, but the results from our initial research are extremely promising,” says Peper.
The preliminary prototype has proven effective and the project is now in its second phase. The system is currently not wireless, so the next two years will focus on producing a wireless, production-ready device.
“Much of the research to date has been conducted with my Rottweiler, Mater,” says Peper. “His ability to generalize from other training to working through the AR goggles has been incredible. We still have a way to go from a basic science and development perspective before it will be ready for the wear and tear our military dogs will place on the units.”
Source: US Army