High-tech for four-legged friends: US military tests VR glasses for dogs

High-tech for four-legged friends: US military tests VR glasses for dogs

Some people live in their own reality. They wear thick, heavy, black glasses in front of their eyes and make the world as they like it. Augmented reality is when the wearer of a corresponding pair of glasses is presented with a mixed reality, partly virtual, partly real.

This technique is often used in video games. But now the American military is also using this trick: dogs of the US Army are currently serving as guinea pigs and wearing glasses that pretend to them a different, more precisely: an augmented reality.

A pioneer of this trend is Mater, a rottweiler. Nine years ago, his master AJ Peper transferred him from the Hessian Lahn Valley to the USA. When Mater is not tending the house and yard in Seattle, he is very good and – as they say so beautifully: he just wants to play.

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Mr. AJ Peper is the founder of the American computer company Command Sight. And Mater is his best employee. “Mater is employee number 1,” Peper laughs. “I make sure that he is always in a good mood – and with rewards.” Because Mater is the first to test the new equipment from Command Sight. “Only then do you try on other dogs.“

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This equipment also includes augmented reality glasses. This idea is actually not that new. After all, glasses for four-legged friends already exist. There are goggles for dogs against UV light or against sandstorms. They look like snow goggles for skiers. Only the retaining straps are a little different. And they are available in different sizes, for all breeds, from chihuahua to great dane.

These glasses were the source material for AJ Peper and his company from the US state of Washington. He asked himself: what if the dog through his glasses not only saw real life in front of him, but masters had the opportunity to spice up this reality a little, to manipulate it?

“We are not creating virtual reality,” AJ Peper clarifies, “we are experimenting with augmented reality.” In this case, this means: “We change the environment for the dog in front of his eye.“

A small camera integrated into the glasses records what the dog sees. This picture will be forwarded to Mr. The handler sees on his smartphone or on his tablet exactly what the dog perceives at that moment.

Man can now artificially change this environment. The owner can mark an actually existing cola can, a car or a door handle in the dog’s field of vision by clicking on the corresponding object on his screen.

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A laser dot on the marked object then appears on the display of the glasses for the dog. If the animal is trained accordingly, it then knows where to go. The dog does not see through this game, he believes that the laser point is really on the corresponding object.

This method has two decisive advantages, which is why the US military has become aware of this technique: “I don’t have to be able to see the dog at all,” emphasizes Stephen Lee, who works as a scientist at the Army Research Office in the city of Research Triangle Park in the US state of North Carolina. “And I don’t have to use a real laser.“

Because especially in the dark, such a laser pointer would not only show the dog where to run – anyone in the area could also see the point of light. So it could not be done undetected.

But with this new procedure, neither the dog, nor the policeman, nor the soldier who leads him betray himself. “It is an artificial laser point that is only visible in the dog’s field of vision and is intended to guide him to the desired destination,” explains Lee.

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There are many possible applications, especially for military operations: dogs could reach injured or buried people in difficult terrain – and their owners could control them remotely. In the case of the collapse of the apartment building in Florida or the recent floods in West Germany, such search methods would have been advantageous.

Or the dog handler could let the four-legged friends sniff out explosives and drugs. Instead of a simple laser point, the owner could also paint complete people or objects into the dog’s field of vision.

And the private user could also benefit: “The civilian market will come up with numerous ideas on how this process could be used,” believes Stephen Lee. As soon as this product is mature, there will be commercial interests, for example in dog sports – “see what my dog sees”. “In the future, we will be able to lead dogs in a way that we could not have imagined before!“

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