Thursday, May 30, 2024

U.S. military dogs wearing AR goggles could help protect soldiers

Dogs wearing glasses or sunglasses are very cute. But the army is not the kind of people who just love to take selfies with dogs and be happy. Military dogs are crucial in complex missions, such as searching for explosives devices and hazardous materials and assisting in rescue operations, but in some situations, the military has difficulty giving necessary orders without putting themselves at risk.

For this reason, the Army has unveiled AR goggles for military dogs that allow a dog’s handler to give it specific directional commands while keeping the warfighter remote and out of sight. This technology is specially designed for dogs by the U.S. Army Research Office and is developed by Command Sight, the company specializing in human-animal communication, which released the first prototype.

The device is designed to fit each dog with a visual indicator that allows the dog to be directed to a specific spot and react to the visual cue in the goggles. The operator does not need to keep the dog in sight to issue hand or spoken commands – he can see everything the dog sees to provide it commands through the glasses. Typically, this communication is done through gestures or laser pointers and requires the person to be close.

These augmented reality goggles are specially designed to fit each military working dog.
These augmented reality goggles are specially designed to fit each military working dog. Credit: Command Sight

Augmented reality works differently for dogs than for humans,” said Dr. Stephen Lee, an ARO senior scientist. “AR will be used to provide dogs with commands and cues; it’s not for the dog to interact with it as a human does. This new technology offers us a critical tool to better communicate with military working dogs.

In addition, an augmented reality headset will be able to help with displaying objects that a person may simply not notice in the dark: a stretch, a mine, a blockage, a person stuck under this blockage – there can be many applications of augmented reality.

Even without the augmented reality, this technology provides one of the best camera systems for military working dogs,” Lee said. “Now, cameras are generally placed on a dog’s back, but by putting the camera in the goggles, the handler can see exactly what the dogs see, and it eliminates the bounce that comes from placing the camera on the dog’s back.”

The AR goggles have been in development since 2017. Three years ago, Dr. A.J. Peper concluded that dogs and humans lack the ability to communicate in the field. Then he developed a concept involving the use of augmented reality and presented the project to the management. Since then, development has been in an active phase and is now going through the first stages of testing.

It’s still far from ready for actual use, though. It will take at least another couple of years to bring the device to the field. The initial prototype is wired, keeping the dog on a leash, but researchers are working to make it wireless in the next phase of development.