“Wearable tech” is the fashionable new buzz-phrase for whatever the future of the Internet is going to be, and that goes for dogs, too. This week, NPR did a report on one potential application: Dr. Melody Jackson, director of the the Center for BioInterface Research at Georgia Tech, has been heading up research and development of an interactive vest to be used by service dogs.
Although the training that service dogs get nowadays produces some truly incredible results, what Jackson seems to be saying is that they’re inherently limited by the fact that they can’t talk. To address that, Jackson and her team are working on the FIDO (Facilitating Interaction for Dogs with Occupations) vest.
Other than providing perhaps the most extreme example of a backronym that you’re likely to find this month, the purpose driving FIDO is to allow service dogs to give a broader range of help to their handlers than can be accomplished through nudges, barks, and yelps. Jackson gives the example of dogs who are trained to help out people with epilepsy. Seizure dogs are trained to help their owners in a number of ways, including by alerting family members, cushioning the fall with their bodies, or just staying nearby to comfort and assist the person when they start to come out of the seizure. With a FIDO vest, Jackson says, the dog would also be able to call 911 by tugging on a sensor.
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