Scholars from Israel’s Ben-Gurion University have fashioned a vibrating vest that can be used as an alternative method of giving commands to working dogs. The vest is fitted with four vibrating motors that can be activated and controlled remotely.
The vest can be useful in several situations, like when a canine can’t hear his handler very well because of loud noises. It has undoubtedly proven valuable in eliciting the desired responses from Tai, a Labrador-German Shepherd mix.
The canine was intended to be a guide dog for visually impaired people, but he failed his training because he was easily distracted. Instead of following his handler’s spoken commands, Tai preferred satisfying his curiosity by sniffing things around him.
However, when the researchers used the vibrating vest on him, the Lab mix turned out to be teachable after all. The vibrations differ in duration, location, and pattern, and it didn’t take long for Tai to associate each configuration with a specific command.
The dog also seemed to respond better to haptic commands better than verbal ones. Tai spent just an hour learning about and then getting the hang of each response.
Since the vest is remote-controlled, handlers can issue commands even when their canine is out of their sight. For instance, the vibrations, along with a camera, can allow humans to guide search-and-rescue dogs working in tight or hazardous spaces.
Moreover, the vibrating vest would be beneficial to both canines and humans with physical disabilities.
For example, haptic feedback is an excellent alternative to speaking or signing for teaching blind and deaf dogs. Also, owners who have mobility or speech issues can tell their dog to come to them from another room without having to shout.
This innovation represents yet another way of facilitating communication between humans and dogs. The researchers will continue fine-tuning the vest and testing it with dogs of various breeds, ages, and training levels.
Watch Tai using the vest in the video below:
Source: Yoav Golan on YouTube