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New Device Helps Facilitate Communication Between Humans and Dogs

Everyone loved the talking dogs in ‘Up’ because they were able to communicate with the characters in the film. Dog owners often look at their dog longingly, wondering what they could possibly be thinking. It would be amazing to know what goes through a dog’s mind. Unfortunately the ability to fully communicate with dogs in this manner is a long way off. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t enhance our communication with man’s best friend.

A new device has been created that takes communicating with dogs to the next level. Some researchers from have created a device that aims to make communications between people and dogs a little easier. David Roberts, co-author of the project explained, ‘we’ve developed a platform for computer-mediated communication between humans and dogs that opens the door to new avenues for interpreting dogs’ behavioral signals and sending them clear and unambiguous cues in return.’


The device they have created looks just like a harness, but it has very intuitive technology attached to it. The device is wireless and one of the key things it does is obtain physical cues from the dog in order to determine what they are attempting to communicate. It does this by measuring things such as their heart rate, posture and other things that can determine how they are feeling.


This information is then processed by a computer which provides useful information to humans. Dogs naturally use body language to communicate how they are feeling to both humans and other dogs. This device simply records data for us and converts it into useful information about a dog's emotional state.


Another thing that this clever device does is send communication cues from humans to dogs as well as the other way around. It does this by using something called ‘haptic technology’ which works by using vibration to send information to the dog. A device that can facilitate communication both ways has not yet been done in this way. Although this device is very exciting, it still doesn’t enable any form of verbal information. It’s more about picking up on cues as to how the dog is feeling and what emotional state they are in.


Many dogs experience stress and don’t show any kind of visual signs of feeling anxious. They look exactly the same as they normally would but inside they are very stressed. Humans can do this too. This device will help to identify when dogs are stressed and when they should be taken out of a particular situation. Co-author Sean Mealin explained the devices advantages for dogs that don’t always show signs of stress. ‘This can help handlers identify and mitigate stress for the dogs, improving the length and quality of a dog’s life.’

Currently this device is only made for larger dogs. The team hopes to make a smaller harness that will fit smaller dog breeds. The team behind the project hope that their invention might be used by professionals to help read dogs better. For example, vets, dog trainers and rescue centres would probably find this device extremely useful. However, the technology needs to be developed further. Watch this space.


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