Improvements to communication have been a large focus on technological innovations over the last decade. In most cases, the focus of these improvements has been on communication between humans or the way in which humans and technology communicate. However, there have also been studies and innovations in the field of animal communications. Now, scientists have discovered a way of communicating with animals without the need for visual and audio cues. According to I Heart Dogs, there is a new and revolutionary technology that allows humans to communicate with dogs using nothing more than vibrations. This technology is a vest that is worn by the dog that was developed by a team of scientists from the Israeli Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. They presented their innovative design in Tokyo at the IEEE World Haptics Conference.
When they presented the vest, they introduced Tai, the Labrador that helped them to develop the product. Tai has learned how to understand the commands given via vibration motors in the vest. The scientists said that giving commands in this way is just as effective as giving vocal demands. Yoav Golan is the lead author of the study. He is a Ph.D. student of mechanical engineering. Golan has been working with Tai for years, and it was the dog that gave him the inspiration for the technology. Tai was originally being trained as a seeing-eye dog. Unfortunately, he failed the training as he was considered a little too hyperactive for the role. However, Golan believed that Tai was capable of doing the job if he used a different method of training.
Prior to any tests involving using vibrations on Tai beginning, the scientists needed to get approval from the animal research ethics department at Ben-Gurion University. They also needed the approval of the Israeli Ministry of Health. Before trying the vibration unit out on Tai, Golan tried out the device on himself first. He said that the vibrations feel similar to the buzz of a cell phone, and they cause no pain at all. At all times during the development of the product, Tai was well looked after and did not suffer in any way.
The product they developed is a vibration motion that is within a special casing inside a dog vest. The vibration motor delivers gentle vibrations to the bony areas of Tai’s body, such as his hips and shoulders. This did not require the team to shave any fur from Tai for him to feel these vibrations. Once the product was developed, Tai’s training began. Golan taught him how to understand commands given via vibrations. This involved teaching him the difference between steady vibrations and pulses. Gradually, Tai was able to learn a variety of commands that differed in their complexity. So, you are probably wondering by now what the benefit of a vibrating dog vest is in comparison to visual and audio commands. The main advantage is that tracker or search-and-rescue dogs can receive commands from a greater distance. They would not need to hear or see their handlers to complete a task.
Similarly, military and police dogs could understand commands in noisy areas, such as in a war one or in the middle of a riot. These situations would normally limit a dog’s capacity to follow commands as they cannot hear their handler and may also lose sight of them amongst the chaos of their surroundings. A vibrating vest is a solution to these problems. Therefore, there are many potential uses and benefits of this product. Golan has talked about the usefulness of haptics, which is a term that is used to refer to any technology that involves the sense of touch, says National Geographic. He has said there are several potential applications for the technology that removes the necessity for visual and audio cues. The vibrating dog vest is already commercially available.
From The Grapevine has described how this is not the only dog-related technology to come from Israel in recent years. Another innovative invention to come from this country was Dog TV. This is a television network specifically for dogs that is the brainchild of Israeli entrepreneur Ron Levi. Meanwhile, scientists in the country’s capital, Tel Aviv, have been working on a facial recognition tool for dogs. Furthermore, there is an Israeli-Belgian technology consultant who has come up with the idea of developing a dog dating network that is the dog equivalent to Tinder. Although it is aimed at dogs, it is the owners that would operate this app, which matches the owners based on their dog’s breed and personality traits. The idea is that dogs can then go on playdates together.
The vibrating vest is also not the first dog vest that has used the sense of touch in an innovative way. The ThunderShirt is a vest that is designed to keep pets calm. It applies pressure at specific points on the dog’s body to promote calmness. This product was designed to help dogs that suffer from anxiety in social situations and at times when they are fearful, such as during travel, on visits to the vet, when there are thunderstorms, or when they are encountering a new situation. It is now a veterinarian-recommended product, and the designers claim it is over 80 percent effective. It takes no training to use and eliminates the need for medication.
These are just some of the products that show that researchers, designers, inventors, and engineers are now putting a greater focus on technologies for pets. The pet industry is a sector that has seen great growth over the last decade, and this is a trend that is set to continue as there are new products hitting the shelves all the time. It is exciting anticipating which products for pets will hit the shelves next and waiting to see the benefits of these technologies.