Through a project funded by the “Small Business Innovation Research” program and managed by the US Army Research Office, new technology has been developed by “Command Sight, Inc.” to provide military dogs with augmented reality glasses that allow the dog handler to give them specific directional commands, while the dog operates at a distance from his handler and out of his field of vision.
The first prototype of augmented glasses for working dogs
Dr AJ Peper is the founder of Command Sight, a small company based in Seattle, to bridge the gap between human and animal communication. Through his interactions with operational military forces, he identified a need to increase the effectiveness of communication between the dog and his handler. This is why he embarked on the manufacture of the first prototype of augmented reality glasses for military dogs.
Mr Peper said the first reactions to his POC (proof of concept) were that “the system could fundamentally change the way military dogs are deployed in the future.”
The augmented reality glasses are specially designed to fit 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. The dog handler can see everything the dog sees to give him orders through the headphones fitted to the goggles.
“Augmented reality works differently for dogs and humans,” said Dr. Stephen Lee, a scientist who works for the military. “Augmented reality will be used to provide dogs with orders and clues; it’s not for the dog to interact with it like a human would. This new technology gives us an essential tool to better communicate with military dogs.” “
The initial prototype is wired, allowing the dog to be kept on a leash, but researchers are working to make it wireless in the next phase of development.
“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,” said Peper. “Most of the research to date has been done with my rottweiler, Mater. His ability to transition from classic training to working with the augmented reality glasses has been amazing. We still have a ways to go from the point of view. view of basic science and development before they are ready for the wear and tear that our military dogs will put on units. “
Switch from hand signals to visual signals in the headset
The basic scientific research behind this technology is focused on understanding canine vision and cognition as this tool is developed.
“We will be able to probe canine perception and behavior in a new way with this tool,” Mr. Lee said.
Currently, military dogs are directed by hand signals, which require the dog handler to be within sight of the dog, or laser pointers, which also require the dog handler to stay close to the dog and generate a source. of light, which can pose a safety problem.
Audio communication, using a camera and radio transceiver placed on the dog, is also used to direct the dogs and allows the handler to be further away from the dog, but verbal commands can be confusing for the dog, for example, a dog runs around a staircase instead of up it.
Augmented reality glasses could offer special forces dogs and their handlers a new alternative.
Fairly easy adoption during testing
“The military working dog community is very excited about the potential of this technology,” said Mr. Lee. “This technology really opens up new avenues and possibilities that we have not yet considered.”
The augmented reality system uses goggles that military working dogs already wear to protect themselves from inclement weather and Rex Specs aerial deployments. Building on a product that dogs are already used to wearing, Mr Peper said adopting the technology was easier for dogs and the dog handler.
“Even without augmented reality, this technology provides one of the best camera systems for military working dogs,” Mr. Lee said. “Currently the 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 dog. camera on the dog’s back. “
The Command Sight team has been selected to move on to Phase II of the SBIR program. This program funds research and technology development with small businesses using a three-phase process. 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 funds 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.
Researchers are developing a wireless product that will go into production.
Once the prototype is created, they will gather user feedback and revise the product for manufacture.