New Technology Gives Dogs The Ability To ‘Talk’

Special vests that enable dogs to send audible messages will be key in assisting rescue-trained pups and service animals.

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Melody Jackson’s Border Collie, Sky, has learned how to use the vest to “talk” with her owner. Via CNN

If you’ve been waiting for the day to have a conversation with your dog, that day may have just got a little closer.

A research team at the Georgia Institute of Technology has developed a new vest that allows dogs to respond to their owners, CNN reports.

The vest comes equipped with sensors that the dog can use to send text notifications or audible messages to a smartphone. These messages are crucial for bomb detection and search and rescue teams, as well as for owners of therapy dogs, said Melody Jackson, an associate professor at the school who created the vest.

“A bomb-sniffing dog has pretty much one alert that says, ‘Hey, I found an explosive,’” Jackson told CNN.

But the dog may know more than that, like what type of explosive it is.

“They know if it’s something stable, like C4, or something unstable and dangerous, like TATP, that needs to be handled carefully,” she said.

The problem, Jackson added, is “they have no way to tell their handler.”

Jackson works with Sky in the research lab at Georgia Tech. Via CNN

Jackson works with Sky in the research lab at Georgia Tech. Via CNN/YouTube

Jackson reportedly merged two of her passions to create the new technology: computer science, which she has a Ph.D. in, and almost 20 years of training assistance dogs. The high-tech vests are part of the Facilitating Interactions for Dogs with Occupations or FIDO. The research team also includes Professor Thad Starner and research scientist Clint Zeagler.

One dog who has been a big part in the vest’s development is Sky, Jackson’s 8-year-old Border Collie.

“He actually has helped us design a lot of these sensors, by telling us what works and what doesn’t work,” she told the news organization, adding dogs can learn in as little as 27 seconds. “So, he’s sort of our first line of testing before we go out to the rest of the world. He’s a very critical part of our design team.”

All that Sky and other dogs need do is trigger side sensors on the vest with a bite or a nudge of their nose. They’re reportedly trained with toys and can identify between a ball or a Frisbee, which they in turn, relay to their handler. Jackson said this is what’s called a “discrimination task” and can be translated to more important tasks, such as bomb detection, where the dog would tell his handler what explosive they have scented.

Jackson and her team also have developed a medical alert vest that allows a dog to find a missing or trapped person, activate a sensor and let that person know that help is en route, CNN reports. This would be key to helping and saving lives during an earthquake or other disaster.

In addition, the vest could be helpful for a hearing-impaired person or individual who can’t speak. The dog could tell others to get help with the phrase, “Excuse me, my handler needs your attention.”

No report if you’re dog will be exclaiming, “Squirrel!” anytime soon, but this new device brings us one stop closer to knowing what those dog barks really mean and teaching them to help people when needed.

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  • Very, very amazing!

    shelley dimond June 8, 2016 12:43 am Reply
  • Long have I waited for this technology.

    prudence June 8, 2016 1:59 am Reply
  • This is soooo cool!! It would be very awesome for older people who only have a dog to get a little less lonely!! Not to mention the great work it will do for medical problems, or fire & rescue, or the bomb squad. AMAZING TECH!!!

    Jennifer June 8, 2016 2:44 am Reply
  • I’m so glad that someone has done this. It is long over due. And this is totally amazing. We all know how smart dogs are and how caring they are. 3 Cheers for Melody Jackson and her team and 3 cheere for her dog Sky and the rest of those beautiful dogs.

    Jerrie Butler June 8, 2016 2:49 am Reply
  • I think this is GREAT!!! This is another awesome way to help service dogs to help their owners. WHY? because they love and want to help them! That’s what they do for us and we give them back all the
    love we have to give.

    Jean Burkhardt June 8, 2016 3:28 am Reply
  • Thankful to Melody Jäckson and Sky,
    Amazing had no idea anything like this was conceivable! Excellent

    C. Dorsey June 8, 2016 4:37 am Reply
  • Really great. This will help a lot to us humans.

    Gamini. Kawiratne June 8, 2016 4:46 am Reply
  • Amazing! Just proves how smart dogs really are.

    Pat Miller June 8, 2016 5:02 am Reply
  • That is amazing

    Diana June 8, 2016 5:28 am Reply
  • Fascinating! However, it shouldn’t be such a surprise, knowing how intelligent our dogs are. But it’s exciting to see it in action.

    Teresa June 8, 2016 6:52 am Reply
  • Excellent.

    Joan W. June 8, 2016 7:08 am Reply
  • Dogs are so smart and caring, 3 cheers for this new technology, truly amazing.

    Diana June 8, 2016 7:11 am Reply
  • Amazing. Can’t see how you managed to do this. One downside?….. will dog develop neck and/ or shoulder problems later by doing so much twisting his head? Could be a great help to all types of people, especially if the cost can be made affordable. Would have loved to know what issues my dog had that I couldn’t fathom or understand. Perhaps in the future you can make it so they can tell you what hurts them or bothers them, so owners could help them.

    j m June 8, 2016 7:35 am Reply
  • Excellent! 3 more cheers. Also what JM typed above re dogs being able to say what hurts or bothers so owners can AbetAidAssist their dogs.

    Susie June 8, 2016 8:04 am Reply
  • It’s been said that when two alien lifeforms or cultures meet, the more intelligent of the two will learn the others language. Well, ‘nough said! ;<3

    Denise Tornick June 8, 2016 8:09 am Reply
  • This is so WONDERFUL!! I have loved canines sines I rescued my first doggy at ten years of age; and I have been blessed to rescue nine more incredible
    canine wonders in the past 63 years!
    How I would love for them to communicate with me in more ways than they do with their facial and body expressions. Is there any way a person can get this technological device for their
    beloved family canine member??? I would indeed purchase it! THANK YOU !
    Mary Headley in Wilmington, DE 19810-2816

    Mary Headley June 8, 2016 8:55 am Reply
  • Is that cool or what…..great job

    Kathleen Anderson June 8, 2016 9:03 am Reply
  • My dog has always spoken to me – when he gets one of these, will he ever shut up? I can’t wait to find out!

    Ostara June 8, 2016 9:47 am Reply
  • much needed technology for those in need, as long as it is not too expensive for medical assistance, and ins. covers.

    Debra Cassiero June 8, 2016 10:11 am Reply
  • amazing

    joan rosenblatt June 8, 2016 11:15 am Reply
  • What an amazing invention! The possibilities of this device are endless. I would imagine the cost to purchase this vest will be the key factor.

    Brenda Peppard June 8, 2016 11:31 am Reply
  • Get them to sniff out CHEESECAKE!

    Guest100 June 8, 2016 2:32 pm Reply
  • WOW That is so amazing!!!!!

    Cheryl Tocci June 8, 2016 3:06 pm Reply
  • This will be amazingly helpful for the blind too! I have some blind friends & would like to introduce this to them!

    Kimberly Thompson June 8, 2016 5:33 pm Reply
  • My name is Dug. I have just met you, and I love you. My master made me this collar. He is a good and smart master and he made me this collar so that I may speak. Squirrel!

    Dug Jones June 8, 2016 7:13 pm Reply
  • Amazing! Keep up the great work!

    Jane June 8, 2016 7:17 pm Reply
  • I’d rather that the message be “my person” needs your help instead of “my owner” but this is very cool!

    Lily June 8, 2016 9:21 pm Reply
  • Pingback: Tech to help dogs talk

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