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Researchers develop touch screen for dogs

Researchers have developed a touchscreen tablet that dogs can use to make phone calls.

The team at FIDO project at the Georgia Institute of Technology hope the new tablet could be used by assistant dogs, who could call the emergency services if need be.

Dr Melody Jackson, director of the animal-computer interaction lab, said: "The dog could go over to a touchscreen and touch a series of icons on the touchscreen and call 911 with your location. We think that, literally, this could change lives, make lives so much better, and be a life-saver. What we realised a few years ago is that service dogs and working dogs in general have a lot of information that they need to impart to their handlers.

"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. 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."

The team are now working on perfecting the tablet with the right size buttons for the pooches.

Clint Zeagler, a research scientist and instructor at Georgia Tech, added: "What we're really doing with the FIDO project is looking at how can dogs best interact with technology. 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."

And Dr Jackson hopes this new software is just the start of letting dogs and humans communicate "very specifically".

She told CNN: "But what if that dog could not just do all of that but reach around and tug a sensor on their vest that calls 911, with their GPS location, and also has a speaker that says, 'Excuse me, my handler is having a seizure; please stay back.'

"We want to be able to let these dogs communicate with humans very specifically and very clearly so that even a person who isn't a dog trainer will understand what's going on. If the dog runs up to you and a speaker says, 'Excuse me, my handler needs your attention; can you please follow me,' OK, that's clear."

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