This sounds so far-fetched, but it is apparently true. Computerworld recently featured a story about Diesel, a Lab who has been outfitted with enough electronics to rival any teenager. Diesel recently made an appearance at a Smart America conference sponsored by the White House to showcase how technology can change service delivery.
David Roberts, an assistant computer science professor at North Carolina State University, lives with Diesel, and has equipped the dog with an electronics vest that includes sensors to measure the dog’s physical well-being and to measure hazardous gasses or radiation in the environment. It also has GPS and WiFi, along with a microphone, camera, and speakers.
The idea is that the dog can go into a search and rescue situation without his handler. The handler guides the dog with voice commands relayed through the speakers and by vibrations relayed through the vest. The equipment also lets the handler know if the dog is wandering into a hazardous area or is suffering physically. It even includes a handler-controlled treat dispenser so the dog can be rewarded when he finds something.
Roberts and his partner, Alper Bozkurt, also see applications for the equipment in helping new dog families understand what their dog is feeling. They cite the fact that many dogs are dropped off at shelters (and later, often euthanized) simply because the humans don’t understand what the dog is trying to tell them. When we humans misunderstand the dog’s signals, we may end up making behavior problems worse because we reinforce the wrong things with regular (un-computer aided) training methods.
By the way, they have also rigged up cockroaches to go where dogs cannot fit. The cockroaches are outfitted with equipment that sends back signals to the handlers when rescue targets are detected.
Kind of odd, but kind of fascinating, right?
Until next time,
Good day, and good dog!