A vest developed by a research team at Georgia Tech is aiming to give trained dogs the ability to “speak” to their owners.
The project, FIDO (Facilitating Interactions for Dogs with Occupations), would allow dogs to communicate crucial information – be it about navigation for the blind, bombs for security, or diagnoses for doctors – to their handlers or owners.
The basic idea behind the project is to combine technology with dog smarts. Dogs are some of the best security devices around. They can do everything from sniff a bomb to detect cancer. One thing they are not terribly good at, though, for obvious reasons, is communicating with people.
That’s where FIDO comes into play. A sensor/transmitter device attaches to the dog’s collar or vest, or to the dog’s handler.
Say the dog is out to diagnose forms of cancer, and detects bowel cancer in a patient. The dog can then trigger the appropriate sensor by “biting, tugging, or putting their mouth nearby,” Technology Review explains.
Each sensor would correspond to a different scent (or in this case, form of cancer), and with training the dogs would learn to associate a particular scent with a particular sensor. After the sensor is triggered, the information can be transmitted to a device or directly to the handler’s ear, effectively enabling dog-to-human communication.