Home Labrador News NCSU Device Aims To Improve Human-Dog Communication

NCSU Device Aims To Improve Human-Dog Communication


In North Carolina State University, researchers are working on a device that will improve human-dog communication.

It is a bond already being developed by Sean Mealin and his service dog, Simba. The two have worked together for about a year and a half. Simba sees what Scott cannot.

“You kind of develop that human/canine bond that many people develop with their pets but to a very significant level,” said Mealin.

To take that bond and communication to a new level, the partners are part of the study group testing a computer-assisted harness that converts Simba’s stance and vital signs into insights on whether the dog is excited or distressed.

According to David Roberts, an assistant professor of computer science, the harness relays real-time data to human handlers.

“They can understand what their dog is doing or experiencing in the world around them and try to increase their awareness of what their dog is experiencing and doing,” he said.

NCSU Device Aims To Improve Human-Dog Communication 1 (1)Simba is trained to communicate barriers directly in Sean’s path. But if Simba wore the harness and saw something farther ahead, Sean could learn that by monitoring Simba’s biofeedback.

“I could see that he’s getting stressed out about something up ahead, and so for his safety and for my safety and the stress of both of us, I can just reroute and find an alternate path,” Mealin said.

The device is being tested on working dogs even when they are not in contact with a handler. For instance, dogs who do search and rescue can communicate remotely when they find something.

Dr. Barbara Sherman, professor of veterinary behavior, said those dogs are trained to go into a ‘down’ position when they find their quarry.

“That is sensed by the sensors the dog is wearing on the vest. It feeds back that the dog has found something, and then we know to go and take a look at that,” she said.

The apps for working dogs are never-ending, but it’s not all work and no play.

Roberts is also working on interactive games for pooches and humans to play with each other.

“They aren’t going to look like ‘World of Warcraft’ or ‘Second Life’ or ‘Call of Duty,’ but there’s going to be this computer-based interaction that’s going to keep your dog entertained and enriched,” he said.

The harness has eight vibration points on it. With that, it can be used to give the dog who wears it hundreds of commands remotely. It can also play pre-recorded commands that are capable of translating a text message to an audible command.

Roberts hopes to have a working prototype more extensively available early next year.


Image: Becky Kirkland/NCSU, WRAL

Source: WRAL