"Super dogs" take on tasks without human guides

New technology allows detection dogs to be guided remotely.
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May 04, 2011
By dvm360.com staff

Talk about high tech. Outfitting dogs with vests with sensors that direct with vibration and tone, researchers at Auburn University have created a system to guide detection dogs remotely. This system could be used for security, combat operations, and to help the disabled. A custom harness equipped with GPS, sensors, a processor, and a radio modem allows dogs to be directed remotely. The pack vibrates slightly on the left or right side and emits different tones to direct the dog.

These “super dogs” wouldn’t have to be in eyesight of humans in order to work. In the past, remote guidance research focused on other animals or relied on invasive implanted electrodes to give commands. Instead, scientists have created this external, real-time navigation system for trained dogs. According to scientists, dogs have the capability to get past a variety of obstacles and process them mentally. The challenge was to create software that took the dog’s natural inclinations into account while guiding it accurately to a destination.

A trained yellow lab named Major tested the system. The results, which were published in the journal Personal Ubiquitous Computing, showed Major had a high success rate when scientists directed him to points several hundred meters apart. In the trials, the dog followed directions accurately 80 percent of the time, and the computer issued correct commands 99 percent of the time. Kind of puts Lassie to shame, doesn’t it?