The US Army is testing augmented reality goggles on its service dogs in hopes to allow troops to give orders remotely.
Pooches are commonly deployed to sniff out explosives, hazardous materials or to assist in rescues. The tech would retrofit special safety goggles military dogs already wear with live cameras and visual indicators so handlers can issue specific directions – allowing the dogs to work without putting soldiers in danger.
“Augmented reality works differently for dogs than for humans,” said Dr. Stephen Lee, an Army Research Office senior scientist in a statement. “AR will be used to provide dogs with commands and cues; it’s not for the dog to interact with it like a human does. This new technology offers us a critical tool to better communicate with military working dogs.”
“We are still in the beginning research stages of applying this technology to dogs, but the results from our initial research are extremely promising,” A.J. Peper, the company’s founder said.
Peper added he had mostly been testing out the gear on his own Rottweiler, Mater.
“His ability to generalize from other training to working through the AR goggles has been incredible,” he said. “We still have a way to go from a basic science and development perspective before it will be ready for the wear and tear our military dogs will place on the units.”
The AR goggles themselves are adapted from an established piece of kit for military canines: protective goggles known as Rex Specs. Each pair of goggles has to be customized for its wearer, with 3D scans used to ascertain where exactly to place the HUD for optimal viewing angles. The familiarity of the Rex Specs, though, makes the goggles easy to adapt to, says Peper.
The researchers say they plan to develop the technology over two years to create a fully wireless prototype. After that, they’ll “get user feedback and revise the product for manufacturing.”