he US Army has showcased the first Augmented Reality goggles designed for service dogs, which will allow them to receive orders from a distance.
The Augmented Reality technology was developed by the company Command Sight, which is managed by the US Army Research Laboratory.
Service dogs can move ahead and scout for potential hazards and explosives, but they need instructions. The goggles were created to allow their handlers to direct them, safely out of harm's way.
The traditional method of directing the dogs is with hand signals or use of a laser pointer, both of which require the handler to be at a closer range. However, if the prototype Augmented Reality goggles become widely adopted, this may not need to be the case, allowing handlers to direct the dogs from further afield.
Within the Augmented Reality goggles, the dogs are able to see visual indicators, which, with training, they can follow, directing them to a specific location. At the same time, the handler can see what the dog sees through a remote video feed.
Senior Scientist with the Army Research Laboratory (ARL), Dr Stephen Lee, stated:
"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,"
Lee went on to explain that Augmented Reality works differently for dogs than for humans, adding:
"The military working dog community is very excited about the potential of this technology."
Each pair of goggles have to be specially fitted for each dog, alongside a visual indicator which allows the dog to be directed to a specific location as well as reacting to visual indicators shown through the goggles.
Many service dogs are used to wearing goggles as protection in bad conditions, so for the dogs wearing goggles is nothing new, but the added Augmented Reality software will be a new adjustment which will require training.
Founder of Command Sight, Dr AJ Peper explained that the project was still in its "beginning research stages", but that early results were "extremely promising" with a significant amount of the research being conducted with his own dog, a Rottweiler named Mater.
Research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute (Rusi) defence think tank, Justin Bronk, commented in a recent interview that although the idea may sound like an "extravagant expense", it could still be useful, stating:
"An ability to direct dogs with visual cues through augmented reality goggles without having to maintain close physical proximity has obvious tactical benefits in a variety of situations,".
The Augmented Reality goggle creators Command Sight, have been awarded more funding to develop a wireless version of the product, which should be far more practical than the initial, leashed version.