If your BFF happens to be of the four-legged variety, there may soon be a device that will allow you to communicate with him in surprising new ways. Researchers at the FIDO (Facilitating Interactions for Dogs with Occupations) project at Georgia Tech are developing a touchscreen tablet made just for dogs that will allow your pet to make calls and send texts, reports CNN.
The technology isn't designed to provide your pet a new way to ogle at your meals by liking all your food pictures on Instagram. It's designed specifically for service dogs, to give them new ways of communicating vital information to their owners, or to communicate with health and emergency services when an owner is in danger.
"The dog could go over to a touchscreen and touch a series of icons on the touchscreen and call 911 with your location," explained Dr. Melody Jackson, director of the animal-computer interaction lab at Georgia Tech. "We think that, literally, this could change lives, make lives so much better, and be a life-saver."
The touchscreen is just the FIDO project's latest invention. They have also designed a high-tech wearable dog vest with chewables attached that the dog can pull or bite on when it needs to communicate something specific. But it's the doggie tablet that really brings inter-species communication into the modern era.
Researcher uses her own dog to learn what's possible
Jackson has trained her own border collie, Sky, to use the device. When Sky is given the command "help," she races over to her television-sized touchscreen and uses her nose to push three buttons. This triggers a computer to make a call or a text to a designated number. That could be a family member, a doctor, or even 911. The buttons are colored blue and yellow so that dogs, being partially colorblind, can distinguish between colors.
"What we're really doing with the FIDO project is looking at how can dogs best interact with technology," said Clint Zeagler, a research scientist who has helped design the dog-friendly technologies for the FIDO project. "So, what size should the buttons be? What colors should the buttons be? What hardware should be used for dogs? We know those things for humans, but we're just starting to figure it out for a dog."
Eventually the technology could be adapted for non-service dogs and their owners too, potentially allowing people to communicate in new and profound ways with their pets. How do you think your dog would use a tablet? Are you ready to receive regular selfies from your pooch? Nonstop Farmville invitations? A doggie dating app?
Let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. For now, the technology is a boon to those who rely on their service animals to keep them safe, and that's a good thing.