Tuesday, April 19, 2016

High-tech service dogs

A service dog at Georgia Tech's FIDO project pulls a rope tug to send a message from an electronic device on its vest.

At Georgia Tech, there’s an interesting new service-dog project with a terrible name: Facilitating Interactions for Dogs with Occupations. Good thing they call it FIDO for short.

Its researchers are applying high-tech electronics to service-dog vests to expand the tasks the dogs can perform.

For instance, if its handler falls out of a wheelchair, the dog might pull a rope tug on its vest that causes an attached speaker to say, “Pardon me, but my owner needs your attention.”  

Same thing with diabetics whose blood sugar drops to a perilous level, or epileptics about to have a seizure. Similar  messages could be transmitted as text to nearby relatives or medical personnel.

FIDO is also experimenting with other kinds of tools besides rope tugs: bite sensors and touch screens for the dogs’ noses.

For deaf members of service animal teams, the dogs could use the technology to send text messages to smartphones warning the handlers of unseen perils, such as tornado warning sirens on twister-prone areas of the Great Plains.

In my case, it would be nice when I’m driving if Trooper could tug a rope to tell me about fire or police sirens. Of course sending a text message to a driver’s smartphone isn’t a good idea, but a big tablet like an iPad could be mounted to the dash to display such messages visibly.

That would also help with my turn signals, which I always seem to forget are on.

This technology has lots of potential.

Here are a couple of links to the Georgia Tech scheme:

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