Scientists building computers for dogs to use
NewsWednesday 22 May 2013
Who said iPads and iPhones were just for humans?
Work has got underway where scientists are designing computers that can be easily used by dogs where they can play, operate household appliances and also communicate with their owners. The aim is to make daily tasks easier and faster and also transform the lives of pets the same way technology has done for humans. One such tool is an alarm which a dog would press when they feel that their owner is in trouble. This would be particularly useful for disabled patients.
The team leading the way are from the Open University and they are working with dog charities to train the animals and build kennels that have computers installed.
Dr Clara Mancini who is leading the team said that
“We are trying to develop something analogous to human computer interaction for animals.
“It is about giving them more control and getting them to do things better.
“Alert dogs for example are already used to summon help if their owner gets into difficulty, but we are trying to make it easier for them.
“If you have technology that makes it easier for dogs to dial 999 and alert the emergency services then it means more dogs can do it.
“Looking to the future, we can’t really tell how far we can go. We have a lot of preconceptions about animals and what they are not capable of doing.
“It is possible that we can invent a computer system that allows animals, if not to send emails, but understand they can engage in conversation with a human on the other side of an internet link.”
Such tasks such as dogs turning on lights, the washing machine and answering the phone would prove useful for disabled people. The researchers have been closely working with animal charities to help understand the needs and limitations of the dogs.
Obviously the scientists will not be providing keyboards and mice that humans have used to control computers but large bright buttons and touch pads that a dog can easily control. They want the technology to be control by “picking it up”, “pulled” or “shaken”. All these actions are ones that a dog can easily make.
The team have been awarded a £15,000 grant by the Dogs Trust to help develop the computer technology for dogs.
Dr Mancini added that “It is about exploring ways to make it more natural for animals other than humans to interact with a device.
“Dogs are not used to doing things with their paws, so they don’t have the same precision that a human hand would have. They tend to use their noses and mouths.
“We are designing buttons and switches that are easier for a dog to operate.
“You might use something that a dog can grab with their mouth and pull.”