NC State Researchers Develop Technology to Help Dogs and Humans Communicate

NC State Researchers Develop Technology to Help Dogs and Humans Communicate
Image: NC State University
November 6, 2014

Even if you think you speak 'dog' fluently, new technology from NC State University (NCSU) aims to improve the communication between dogs and their human companions.

Researchers at NCSU are developing wearable technology that will allow humans to communicate with their dogs remotely, which could have widespread applications from search-and-rescue to service training.

Dr. David Roberts, an assistant professor of computer science and co-lead author of a paper on the work, said the research team already has a fully-functioning prototype.

"Dogs communicate primarily through body language, and one of our challenges was to develop sensors that tell us about their behavior by observing their posture remotely," Roberts said in a press release. "So we can determine when they're sitting, standing, running, etc., even when they're out of sight – a harness-mounted computer the size of a deck of cards transmits those data wirelessly."

The harness also includes physiological sensors to monitor things like heart rate and body temperature, which helps monitor the dog's physical well-being and emotional state.

Using speakers and vibrating motors incorporated into the harness, humans are able to communicate with their dogs even when they're far apart.

"We're also very interested in addressing stress in working dogs, such as guide dogs for the blind," says Sean Mealin, an NCSU Ph.D. student and co-author of the paper. "We're reliant on the physiological and behavioral sensors to give us a picture of the dog's mental and emotional state."

Service dogs such as these are bred and trained not to display stress, but humans generally rely on their dog's body language to tell their humans that they are uncomfortable or need help.

The technology also has applications for disaster response by adding cameras, microphones and environmental sensors that can detect hazards such as gas leaks.

While you're waiting for one of these harnesses to come to market, brush up on your dog language. This video from The Family Dog provides excellent examples of how to tell when your dog is happy versus when they are stressed.