US Army testing augmented reality goggles on military service dogs

The US Army is testing augmented reality goggles on its service dogs. The goal is to allow troops to give orders remotely.

Military service dogs are commonly deployed to detect explosives, hazardous materials or to assist in rescues. The technology 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 military personnel in danger, Army.mil reported.  

“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.”

augmented reality goggles
These augmented reality goggles are specially designed to fit each military working dog with a visual indictor that allows the dog to be directed to a specific spot and react to the visual cue in the goggles. The handler can see everything the dog sees to provide it commands through the glasses. (Courtesy Command Sight via Army.mil)

The technology is still just a prototype from the Seattle-based company Command Sight. The initial design is wired and requires a leash. However, the company said in an Army news release it’s working on a wireless model.

“We are still in the beginning research stages of applying this technology to dogs, but the results from our initial research are extremely promising,” Dr. 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.”

augmented reality goggles
A new technology provides military working dogs with augmented reality goggles that allows a dog’s handler to give it specific directional commands while keeping the warfighter remote and out of sight. (Courtesy Command Sight via Army.mil)

Soldiers typically direct military dogs via hand signals and laser pointers, which require them to be nearby. The Army has also tried with equipping the dogs with walkie-talkies and live cameras but found their K9s to be easily confused, the Army said, Fox reported

The AR technology is still some time away. Researchers hope to develop a wireless version over the next two years, according to the Army.

Peper said initial feedback from his proof of concept was, “the system could fundamentally change how military canines are deployed in the future.”

 

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