The Small Business Innovation Research program, led by the U.S. Army’s Research Bureau, funded a project by Seattle-based Command Sight Inc., a small company, to provide military dogs with augmented reality headsets. . They allow the handler to give them directional commands while the dog operates away from his handler and out of his field of vision, often to locate explosive devices, dangerous materials or participate in rescue operations. These glasses could avoid endangering the soldiers.
A prototype of augmented glasses
Dr AJ Peper, Founder of Command Sight, embarked on the manufacture of the first prototype of augmented reality glasses for military dogs by identifying, following his interactions with operational military forces, a need to increase efficiency. communication between the dog and his master. It could change the way military dogs will be used in the future.
Dr Stephen Lee, a scientist who works for the military, said:
“Augmented reality works differently for dogs and for humans. It will be used to provide the dogs with orders and clues; it’s not for the dog to interact with her like a human would. This new technology gives us an essential tool to better communicate with military dogs. “
The glasses adapt to each dog with a visual indicator that allows the dog to be directed to a specific location and react to the visual signal in the glasses as indicated by France Bleu. The dog handler can see everything the dog sees to give him orders through the headphones fitted to the goggles.
For now, the prototype is wired, so the dog must be kept on a leash, but researchers are working to make it wireless.
Dr AJ Peper said:
“We are in the early stages of researching the application of this technology to dogs, but the results of our early research are extremely promising. Most of the research to date has been done with my rottweiler, Mater. His ability to switch from classic training to working with the augmented reality glasses has been amazing. We still have a ways to go from a basic science and development standpoint before they are ready for the wear and tear that our military dogs will put on units. “
From hand signals to visual signals
The basic scientific research behind this technology is focused on understanding canine vision and cognition. Dr Stephen Lee said:
“We will be able to probe canine perception and behavior in a new way thanks to this tool. “
Today, dogs are guided by hand signals or laser pointers (the dog handler must be within sight of or close to the dog). Audio communication, using a camera and radio transceiver placed on the dog, is also used and allows the handler to be further away from the dog, but verbal commands can be confusing for the dog. Augmented reality glasses offer a new alternative for dogs and their owners.
Dr Stephen Lee said:
“The military working dog community is very excited about the potential of this technology. This technology really opens up new avenues and possibilities that we have not yet considered. “
The augmented reality system uses goggles that dogs are already used to wearing to protect themselves from inclement weather and Rex Specs aerial deployments, making them easier to accept.
Dr Stephen Lee said:
“Even without augmented reality, this technology provides one of the best camera systems for military working dogs. Currently, cameras are usually placed on the dog’s back, but by placing the camera in the goggles, the dog handler can see exactly what the dogs are seeing and this mitigates image skipping related to the location of the camera. on the dog’s back. “
A promising next phase of development
The Command Sight team will move on to Phase II of the SBIR program which funds research and technology development with small businesses. Unlike basic research programs run by the Army, the SBIR program primarily focuses on feasibility studies leading to the demonstration of technology prototypes for specific applications.
In addition, the Department of Defense Rapid Reaction Technology office has provided funding for the next phase of development. With this funding, Command Sight is currently working with Navy Special Forces to build prototypes that will be tested on their military dogs. Each of the dogs was 3D scanned to obtain dimensional data to understand where to place the optical and electrical components, specific to each dog.