New tech. helps communication between people & dogs

Dr. David Roberts conducts his research with a test subject. (Photo Credit: North Carolina State University)

Imagine being able to really know what your dog is thinking. Thanks to researchers at North Carolina State University, who developed a suite of technologies that can be used to enhance communication between dogs and humans, we may soon better understand what is on our dogs’ minds.

“We’ve developed a platform for computer-mediated communication between humans and dogs that opens the door to new avenues for interpreting dogs’ behavioral signals and sending them clear and unambiguous cues in return,” says Dr. David Roberts, an assistant professor of computer science at North Carolina State and co-lead author of a paper on the work. “We have a fully functional prototype, but we’ll be refining the design as we explore more and more applications for the platform.”

This technology is a harness that fits comfortably onto a dog, and is equipped with a variety of technologies.

Dr. Alper Bozkurt, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at North Carolina State and co-lead author of a paper on the work, told Science Daily, “There are two types of communication technologies. One allows us to communicate with the dogs, and one that allows them to communicate with us.”

Dr. Roberts adds, “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.”

The scientists added speakers and vibrating motors into the harness, which enables them to communicate with the dogs. These motors will allow the researchers to collect, interpret, and communicate with the dogs.

In addition, the motors will monitor heart rate and body temperature. It will track a dog’s physical and emotions wellbeing.

These monitors will be used on search and rescue dogs, and are also being studied on dogs in animal shelters and hospitals.

Dr. Barbara Sherman, a clinical professor of animal behavior at the North Carolina State College of Veterinary Medicine and co-author of the paper, said, “This platform is an amazing tool, and we’re excited about using it to improve the bond between dogs and their humans.”

Sources: Science Daily, IEEE Digital Library, North Carolina State University