Dogs are smart - they deftly navigate obstacles and help us locate contraband like weapons and drugs - but they're easily distracted. This new GPS- and radio-equipped harness allows computers to keep trained pups on task remotely with sounds and vibrations.
The harness, developed at Auburn University, solves the foremost shortcoming of trained canines: they must remain in close physical proximity with a handler. The rig has GPS sensors, a processor and a wireless radio, and a computer programmed with a target destination can remotely trigger tones or vibrate the pack on either side to guide the dog. The humans, presumably, are kicking back and drinking margaritas.
In a preliminary test a yellow lab named Major followed the harnesses computer-given directions 80 per cent of the time (while the computer itself correctly administered those directions 90 per cent of the time). Pretty good!
Paul Waggoner, a senior scientist at the Canine Detection Research Institute, acknowledges that some people might object to technologies that make it easier for us to put dogs in dangerous situations. But "the reality is," he explains, "a dog is much more capable at avoiding, recovering and basically retreating from any kind of dangerous situation than a person is... Often, a person is what's encumbering a dog." And maybe sometimes a huge computer backpack. [Discovery via PopSci]