New Israeli innovation allows owners to communicate with their dogs

Haptic technology simulates the the senses of touch and motion through vibrations, enhancing the remote control of a device, or in this case, an animal.

By ALEX WINSTON
July 10, 2019 11:00
2 minute read.
Tai responds to several distinct commands, such as  “spin,” “down,” “to me,” or “backpedal".

Tai responds to several distinct commands, such as “spin,” “down,” “to me,” or “backpedal".. (photo credit: JONATHAN ATARI/BEN-GURION UNIVERSITY OF THE NEGEV)

 
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A new vest for dogs developed by researchers at Israel's Ben-Gurion University allows users to transmit communications and commands to their canines via haptic technology.

Haptic technology simulates the the senses of touch and motion through vibrations, enhancing the remote control of a device, or in this case, an animal. This can be valuable in situations where the user is not directly able to interact with or feel physical objects.

The modified vest contains four small vibrating motors positioned on the dog’s back and sides that can be used to train or direct dogs to respond to different vibrations sent via wireless remote control. The handler is able to elicit different commands by controlling the which motor is engaged and the duration of vibrations.

This type of technology may prove useful in the future for delivering remote commands to dogs for use in search and rescue operations, assisting disabled handlers, and other situations for service animals.



"Our research results showed that dogs responded to these vibrotactile cues as well or even better than vocal commands," said Prof. Amir Shapiro, director of the Robotics Laboratory at Ben-Gurion University's Department of Mechanical Engineering. "Our current proof-of-concept study shows promising results that open the way toward the use of haptics for human-canine communication."

The new technology will be presented in a paper entitled, "Vibrotactile Vest for Remote Human-Dog Communication," at the World Haptics Conference on July 12 in Tokyo, Japan.

The haptic vest may also be used with existing dog-training devices that detect posture and automate reward systems. 

“Integrating devices will allow us to further advance the potential of fully or partially autonomic dog training to assess general behavior, responsiveness to commands and the effectiveness of rewarding dogs for desired behavior,” said Shapiro.

Future research will also test the haptic vest technology on different types of dogs to determine the ideal canine. Different breeds, ages and training experience will be tested, and the research team will integrate more advanced devices into the program.

Yoav Golan, a Ph.D. student in Ben-Gurion's Department of Mechanical Engineering, and Ben Serota, who earned his M.A. in neuroscience at the university began this research as a graduate project. The team also includes Dr. Oren Shriki, head of Computational Psychiatry Lab in the Department of Cognitive and Brain Sciences.

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