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Special tablet to allow dogs to call 911

Your four-legged friend might save your life someday, given that researchers at the Facilitating Interactions for Dogs with Occupations project at Georgia Tech are working on a touchscreen tablet for dogs that will allow them to make calls and send texts.

The tablet is designed for service dogs. It will offer them the chance to communicate vital information to their owners or to contact health and emergency services if their owner is in danger, as MNN reports. Dogs could be traind to activate a device if their owner falls or if they hear a verbal cue. “The dog could go over to a touchscreen and touch a series of icons on the touchscreen and call 911 with your location,” Dr. Melody Jackson, director of the animal-computer interaction lab at Georgia Tech, said. “We think that, literally, this could change lives, make lives so much better, and be a life-saver.”

Both companion and service pets could easily be trained to use the tablet. “A medical alert dog may need to summon 911 for their person who is having a seizure. Or a military working dog might need to tell their handler what kind of explosive they just found,” Jackson said. “The dogs had no way reliably to do this. So we started focusing on technology to allow working dogs and specifically service dogs to communicate.”


Along with her colleagues, Jackson trained her border collie Sky and other dogs to approach a TV-size touchscreen surface and use their noses to push three buttons when they hear the command “help”. The buttons appear in blue and yellow, due to the dog vision being similar to red-green colorblindness. Once those buttons are pushed, a computer that is connected to the touchscreen can be programmed to call anyone, from family members to emergency services, according to Clint Zeagler, a research scientist and instructor at Georgia Tech, who contributed to the design of the dog-friendly tablet, according to CNN.

“What we’re really doing with the FIDO project is looking at how can dogs best interact with technology,” Zeagler said. “So, what size should the buttons be? What colors should the buttons be? What hardware should be used for dogs? We know those things for humans, but we’re just starting to figure it out for a dog.”

At the moment, the technologies are still research prototypes and have certain limitations, but Jackson and her colleagues hope that the tablet will be commercialized soon for service dogs around the world. “We are just so proud that we can actually work in this area and hopefully create some of these technologies to keep that going,” Jackson said.

Daisy Wilder