The US Army announced a new initiative Tuesday to outfit its working dogs with goggles that would let soldiers give orders to their canines from a distance.
Military dogs are often trained to help with tactical operations that include detecting explosive devices and hazardous materials or helping with dangerous rescue missions. Typically, soldiers communicate with their canines using hand signals or laser pointers, which means the dogs must be close enough to the soldiers to see their commands.
But what if the dog is farther away? That's where AR goggles could come in handy.
The special AR goggles are being created by Seattle-based company Command Sight, which specializes in animal and human communication.
"Augmented reality works differently for dogs than for humans," Stephen Lee, an Army Research Office senior scientist, said 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."
The AR goggles will also let soldiers follow everything the dog is seeing in real time.
"We will be able to probe canine perception and behavior in a new way with this tool," Lee said.
The current AR goggle prototype is wired, keeping the dog on a leash, but researchers want to make the devices wireless in the future. The AR system uses Rex Specs goggles already worn by working military dogs for protection in bad weather and aerial deployments, according to the US Army.
"We are still in the beginning research stages of applying this technology to dogs, but the results from our initial research are extremely promising," Command Sight CEO A.J. Peper said.
Much of the research so far has been conducted with Peper's rottweiler, Mater.
"His ability to generalize from other training to working through the AR goggles has been incredible," Peper 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."