FIDO Would Enable Dog-To-Human Communication

The device would benefit the military, the disabled, doctors, and maybe even you!

Jackson, a U.S. Air Force Belgian shepherd, hangs out on a giant scary tank before a mission in Iraq. Staff Sgt. Stacy L. Pearsall

Three researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology, including one of the co-creators of Google Glass, are working to develop a new piece of technology attire–for dogs. 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, and has received grant funding from Google.

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.

FIDO would benefit national security and the military (which admitted three years ago that its expensive efforts to engineer bomb-sniffing machines were in vain), rescue operations (where dogs could communicate what they had found, while humans remained at a safe distance), doctors (for diagnosing diseases), and even, potentially, the common dog owner (for preventing in-house doggy messes).

The device is still in development, but with funding from Google, significant advances are probably forthcoming. Maybe the FIDO team can combine forces with K9 Storm to create a super dog.

[via MIT Technology Review]