• 07.15.13

The World Needs More Wearable Devices For Dogs, Said No One Ever

Could our dogs learn to wag their tails for wearable PCs? The use cases are actually more pragmatic than you think. Here’s why the next generation of assistance dogs will be cyber-enabled.

The World Needs More Wearable Devices For Dogs, Said No One Ever

Google Glass is on its way, imperfections and all, and if the rumbling of the rumor drums is any guide, then Glass is heralding the arrival of many more wearable computers that’ll adorn the wrists, heads, and other parts of humans. But a research team at Georgia Tech has bigger ideas: They’re looking into the benefits of wearable tech for dogs.


The system, of course called FIDO (“facilitating interactions for dogs with occupations”), is an experiment in making assistance dogs even more useful. The wearable system isn’t an augmented reality device, though, it’s something far more unexpected: It’s a suite of sensors the dog can activate to get FIDO to send a message to their handler or another important person like a police officer or medical professional.

As part of the experiment a dog vest was wired with an Arduino board and sensors that the dog could bite, pull at, or put near to their mouth. Service dogs, already smart and quick to learn, were rapidly able to learn to activate the sensors to set off the FIDO alert.

The uses of this system, particularly if the dogs can be trained to use it for multiple signals, could be huge. First, it could help with seeing eye dog owners, creating an alert system for dangerous situations that augments the guide-owner relationship dogs and handlers already have. But the team imagines that similar systems could help bomb-sniffing dogs communicate to their handlers at a distance–perhaps even beaming a dog’s-eye view of the scene, or carrying a smart electronic bomb sensor. It could also help rescue dogs alert disaster teams that they’ve found a casualty. Ultimately the system could reach consumer levels with pet alerts when your dog needs to go out or to get more food.

Given how well dogs can be trained, it’s easy to imagine a future implementation of this tech that does have a simple “augmented” feedback for the canine in question, perhaps signaling a pet is not to leave the yard, or that a military dog handler has a command to give. The question is–what apps would you love to write for this tech?

[Image: Flickr user Jacci Rudling]

About the author

I'm covering the science/tech/generally-exciting-and-innovative beat for Fast Company. Follow me on Twitter, or Google+ and you'll hear tons of interesting stuff, I promise.