What would the world be like if pups could talk? Would you be able to engage in interesting conversations with a fur ball, or would you be showered with the phrases “I love you” and “I’m hungry” at every turn?
Both sound incredible – but now, we don’t have to keep guessing what it would be like, because Dr. Melody Jackson, an associate professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology, has got it all figured out. Dr. Jackson has a Ph.D. in computer science and has been working with and training assistance dogs for nearly 20 years. She’s combined her two passions and created high-tech vests that serve to allow fur balls to communicate with humans, in a project known as FIDO – “Facilitating Interactions for Dogs with Occupations”.
This technology is, according to Dr. Jackson, crucial for search and rescue, bomb detection and therapy dogs. The vests in question are equipped with sensors that respond to a pup’s actions – such as a bite or nose nudge – and send cues or notifications to a smartphone. The future is now! Even better, these vests have been tested out by Dr. Jackson’s own border collie named Sky, and he’s given it a seal of approval and helped with the design of the sensors.
Pups who wear the vest are trained with toys in order to learn how to properly communicate in “discrimination tasks”, when a pup may have to tell their handler what explosive they have scented. According to Dr. Jackson, “A bomb-sniffing dog has pretty much one alert that says, ‘Hey, I found an explosive.’ But that dog knows what explosive is in there. … They know if it’s something stable like C4 or something unstable and dangerous like TATP that needs to be handled carefully. … They have no way to tell their handler.” She hopes that her vests may help pup soldiers one day.
Dr. Jackson and her research team have also worked on medical alert vests, one of which is being tested currently by a rescue fur ball in California. A pup who finds a person missing, trapped, or injured can activate a sensor to say help is on the way. She is also working on a way to allow a handler to track a pup on duty by allowing fur balls to send GPS coordinates by activating a sensor.
But that’s not all. Dr. Jackson also believes that this technology can be used personally to call 911 in emergency situations with a GPS location and send informing texts to loved ones about the situation. It can also be used for the speech or hearing impaired, where a pup can alert others when help is needed, or alert their own handlers about danger that they cannot hear or see.
This is definitely exciting news for the pup world! Do like and share away!