ave you always dreamed of the day that your dog would be able to tell you what he is thinking? That time may be closer than you think. According to WIRED, a Georgia Tech scientist named Melody Jackson has been working to create computerized vests meant for service dogs. In an emergency, these vests would allow the service dog to locate a human, pull a lever on the vest, and play an audio message that says, "My handler needs you to come with me!"
Currently, these vests are designed for dogs who work with diabetics or people suffering from epilepsy. While these dogs are trained to detect dangerous changes in their humans that may signal an oncoming diabetic episode or seizure, sometimes these conditions come on too quickly and the dog is left with an unconscious human. These vests are designed to help dogs respond to these life-or-death situations more efficiently.
As such, the vests have also been outfitted with capabilities like SOS alerts and the ability to provide GPS coordinates. This makes them a fantastic option for dogs who work in the search-and-rescue field, as well.
The attempt to create animal-human communication through technical means doesn't stop with dogs, either: scientists are working to create a dialogue between dolphins and humans, while some researchers are even striving to create video games that cats can play with humans. Melody Jackson herself is also working on a program that allows humans to monitor their horses, complete with sensors that alert a handler if the horse is exhibiting early symptoms of lameness.
When Dogs Talk
While researchers are trying very hard to open a line of communication between humans and pets, the focus is primarily on helping dogs speak. This is because humans and dogs have a centuries-old bond and they are very attentive, alert, and invested in their human's well-being.
We all want our domestic dogs to tell us how they're feeling, but it's likely that "talking dog" technology will be limited to service dogs, at least at first. Innovations like Jackson's computerized vest will allow service dogs to serve their handlers better. Examples include seeing-eye dogs that can communicate the nature of an obstacle to their handler or search-and-rescue dogs that can better assist people in the field.
As you can imagine, a huge amount of technological focus has gone into these projects. Specifically, scientists have had to figure out how to make sensor devices that work with dog's mouths and noses. Jackson, for example, has been working to make a touchpad that's meant to be used in association with her vest and allows dogs to communicate signals by hovering their noses over it.
We may still be a long way off from dogs actually "talking" to us conversationally; however, it seems clear that technological interfacing has come a long way in allowing our canine companions to communicate messages that were previously impossible. In addition to serving people in need and enhancing the relationship between humans and their service dogs, these advancements also give dog lovers everywhere hope that one day, our four-legged friends might just be able to tell us exactly how that down pillow exploded or what happened to the trash while we were out.
Photo ©Rob Felt/Georgia Tech