Military dogs are involved in tactical operations, patrols, detection and specialized searches. Often, they can find themselves scouting in dangerous areas, looking for explosive devices or materials, for example. Soldiers typically guide dogs on their mission by hand signals and laser pointers, which means the instructor must be physically near the animal, sometimes at a distance close to potential danger.
Command Sight, specialized in communication between man and animal, has developedaugmented reality devices that can be worn by dogs, and through which handlers can provide visual cues to direct the animal to a specific location. The glasses also allow the soldier to track everything the dog sees in real time.
"Augmented reality works differently for dogs than for humans "
Stephen Lee, who manages the initiative , explains: "Augmented reality works differently for dogs than it does for humans. (The device) will be used to provide dogs with commands and clues; it's not for the dog to interact with it like the makes a human. This new technology gives us an essential tool to better communicate with dogs used by the military ".
According to the US military, this tool will improve asScientists will better understand canine vision and cognition, while ensuring the safety of more human soldiers in risky operations. Each pair of glasses will be specifically designed to fit each dog based on a 3D scan that will provide data to understand where to place optical and electrical components.
The system will then be installed on goggles that military dogs are already accustomed to wearing when working in difficult conditions or during air deployments. According to the research team, this will allow faster adoption, both for the animals and their instructors.
Previous attempts have not been successful
Previous attempts to allow remote communication between military dogs and soldiers involved cameras and walkie-talkies placed on the animal. The coAudio tapes, however, have proven to be confusing for dogs; while the cameras, placed on the dog's back, were not as effective as expected. Command Sight's technology could therefore provide a viable alternative to current methods.
"Even without augmented reality, this technology provides one of the best dog camera systems used by the military," says Lee. "To this day, the cameras are usually placed on the dog's back, but by placing the camera in the goggles, the dog handler can see exactly what the dogs see and this eliminates the bounce that comes from placing the camera on the dog's back ".
Although Command Sight started working on this technology three years ago, there is still a lot of room for improvement. While testing the tool on his own Rottweiler, Mater, company founder A.J. Peper, found that the dog's ability to trainDining with an augmented reality device is very encouraging. Still, according to Peper, there is still a lot to learn, especially about canine cognition, before the technology is ready for deployment.
Towards a wireless product
"We are still only at the beginning of research on the application of this technology to dogs, but our initial research results are extremely promising, "Peper said. "We still have some way to go from a basic science and development perspective ".
Technically, the next stage of development will focus on the production of a wireless product, to evolve the current wired prototype which requires keeping the dog on a leash. Over the next two years, the company will work with US Navy Special Forces to obtain user feedback before starting to manufacture the technology.e.