60-Second Tech

Fido Learns to Fetch from Afar

A small backpack worn by a dog emitted vibrations and tones to remotely guide the canine from one point to point, with no handler present. Larry Greenemeier reports

It may not be the bionic dog, but researchers are finding ways to augment man’s best friend through technology.

Canines already excel at guard duty, contraband detection and search and rescue, thanks to their keen senses. Typically they do their jobs after extensive training and often in the presence of a trainer.

Now researchers want to see if there’s a way to remotely guide working dogs where rough terrain or other conditions don’t permit a handler to be nearby.

Auburn University engineers devised a harness outfitted with a microprocessor, wireless radio, GPS receiver, and an attitude and heading reference system. Worn on the dog’s back, the system issued specific vibrations and tones that guided the canines from one waypoint to another.

On courses with only two waypoints, the dogs were nearly 98 percent successful. Luckily, no squirrels were present to skew the results. The research appears in the International Journal of Modelling, Identification and Control. [Jeff Miller and David M. Bevly, A system for autonomous canine guidance]

Now if only I could train my dog to let me back in the house when I forget my keys.

—Larry Greenemeier

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

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