• September 26, 2022

New Technology Allows Dogs to Talk! Crucial For Search And Rescue, Bomb Detection, And Therapy

Atlanta (CNN)If dogs could talk, Melody Jackson knows what they would say. Or at least, what she’d like them to say.

Jackson, an associate professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology, has developed technology that is giving dogs a voice, an ability she says is crucial for search and rescue, bomb detection and therapy dogs. The dogs wear vests equipped with sensors that can send either audible cues or text notifications to a smartphone.
Jackson earned her Ph.D. in computer science from Georgia Tech in 1998 and has trained assistance dogs for nearly 20 years. Now she’s putting her two passions together. Jackson’s research team, which includes professor Thad Starner and research scientist Clint Zeagler, has created high-tech vests for canines for a project called FIDO, which stands for “Facilitating Interactions for Dogs with Occupations.” The program is sponsored by The National Science Foundation and also the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, better known as DARPA.
The vests have been approved by Jackson’s 8-year-old border collie, Sky.
“He actually has helped us design a lot of these sensors, by telling us what works and what doesn’t work,” she says. “So, he’s sort of our first line of testing before we go out to the rest of the world. He’s a very critical part of our design team.”
The vest has side sensors that the dogs trigger with a bite or a nudge of their nose. They’re trained with toys, identifying between a Frisbee or a ball, and telling their handler which is which. Jackson explains this is an example of a “discrimination task” that can be translated to more important tasks, such as bomb detection, where the dog would tell his handler what explosive he or she has scented.
Jackson has been observing bomb dog training in hopes of putting her vests to the test with canines on patrol with soldiers on the battlefield.
“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,” Jackson says. The problem is “they have no way to tell their handler.”

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