Great story out of Georgia Tech, where students have developed a solution that could allow assistance dogs to better communicate with their handlers. Check it out here:
In a project now known as FIDO (for Facilitating Interactions for Dogs with Occupations), the group is constructing dog vests studded with an array of sensors that the service dogs can be trained to activate. The researchers are using the dogs’ natural behaviors, such as tugging, biting, and touching things with their noses, to create pull, bite, and motion sensors that should be fairly easy for the dogs to activate. The sensors are fitted onto off-the-shelf dog vests, the kind worn by assistance dogs in public to signal their role as a working animal.
So far, the team has built and tested four sensors: two differently shaped bite sensors; a tug sensor made of a rubber ball sewn to a stretch resistor; and a proximity sensor, similar to the hand-wave sensor on an automatic paper towel dispenser, which a dog can activate with a swipe of its nose. In their initial study, presented in September at the International Symposium on Wearable Computers in Zurich, Switzerland, the team tested three assistance-trained dogs: two border collies (including Jackson’s own dog, Sky) and a black lab–golden retriever mix. The researchers reported that the proximity sensor could be activated by the dogs with 100 percent accuracy, but was also the most sensitive to false positives, as the dogs would sometimes trigger it by accident.