The augmented reality goggles can improve canine-handler communication.
Senior scientist at the U.S. Army Research Office Dr. Stephen Lee told RCR Wireless News that human soldiers already use virtuality reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) products in training and on the field. So why shouldn’t their four-legged counterparts get some new gear? Well, a few weeks ago, the Army revealed a design for AR goggles for military dogs that will enable them to receive commands at a distance, improving their ability to perform tasks such as scouting ahead for explosives.
“Military working dogs are used for the detection of chemicals including narcotics and explosives, tracking and finding of individuals, and tactically for their ability to be a non-lethal supporting asset in assaulting,” Lee explained further. “There are many other ways military working dogs are used such as route clearance, finding land mines and IEDs, as well as for searching vehicles and shipments.”
The AR goggles can make some of these risky maneuvers safer by allowing soldiers “to guide canines off leash remotely around corners and inside of building where the handler may not be immediately present.”
Currently, hand signals and laser pointers are used by handlers to communicate with the dogs, both of which require a short distance.
However, that might become a thing of the past if the AR goggles see widespread adoption, because the augmented reality goggles will allow handlers “to guide canines off leash remotely around corners and inside of building,” as Lee explained.
“Dogs clearly have different vision than human[s], including inter-ocular distance,” Lee continued, addressing a question likely to spring up for most people reading about the trial. “With the research, we are working at identifying the ideal lens set-up for the dog’s vision, for both eye spacing and frequencies.”
The world will appear “normal” to the dog, but they will see a dot, like a laser pointer, that will guide the them to a very specific spot.
“This specificity is hard to achieve with just verbal commands,” Lee added.
The main technology developers behind this project, Command Sight and its Founder and CEO AJ Peper, have demonstrated the concept on a dog with a wired version, but Lee said the team is now working to make the system more practical by making it lightweight and wireless.
Military dogs are used to wearing goggles for protection during bad weather conditions or aerial drops. Recent advances in such goggles have been critical in enabling the ability to mount the lenses for augmented reality.
Lee said that the wireless prototypes will be moving into field testing in 12 months, with the final format expected a year after that.
This is not the first time that AR or VR has proven potentially useful to animals. Last year, cows on a farm in Russia were outfitted with VR headsets to reduce their anxiety, which according to Moscow’s Ministry of Agriculture and Food, could lead to larger quantities of better-tasting milk.
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