Groundbreaking Vest Allows Dogs to "Talk" to Their Owners

A new vest is being developed to enable dogs to "talk" to humans? Hard to believe? Read on and find out.
Groundbreaking Vest Allows Dogs to "Talk" to Their Owners

Last update: 15 February, 2019

When we have a really close bond with our dog, then it’s not uncommon for us to say things like: “The only thing he’s missing is the ability to talk”. Can you imagine what it would actually be like to be able to communicate with your dog? To drink a glass of wine quietly at home while you “chat”? Well, there’s a group of American students who believe that this is possible and they’ve decided to create a vest that allows dogs to “talk”.

Hard to believe? Well, it’s true! Although this is a project still in the initial testing phase, the results are still remarkable and very positive. Would you like to know more about this innovative invention?

So how does this vest that makes dogs talk work?

Remember the movie “Up”? Yes, the one where a house actually flies, thanks to a large number of balloons. Dug, a very amusing dog, appears in the film with a collar that allowed him to talk with humans. If he didn’t have the collar on, communication wasn’t possible.

Maybe these young entrepreneurs got their inspiration from that film? We don’t know for sure, but it’s very likely that this was the case.

The project is under development at the Georgia Tech University with Melody Jackson in charge. Her idea came from noticing that, even though dogs can communicate many things through barking or body language, so far that has been the only way to communicate with them, and this often isn’t enough.

The vest has several sensors that activate when bitten or touched by the dog’s mouth. Once the sensors activate, they create sounds that are transformed into human language. These can either be audible, or can be sent as a text message to a smartphone.

The program is known as “FIDO” (Facilitating Interactions for Dogs with Occupations) and was originally designed for “working” dogs such as guide dogs, therapy dogs, assistance dogs, police dogs or rescue dogs.

A vest that allows dogs to talk: real-life examples

A dog using the vest that allows dogs to talk.

To demonstrate the effectiveness of this vest, Jackson has spoken in several conferences, giving real demonstrations to prove the effectiveness of this invention.

In one of these demonstrations, a person with epilepsy put one of these vests on his dog. The dog, thanks to this special garment, was able to detect when his owner was having an epileptic fit. They trained him to take his owner to a wall to prevent him from falling, or to directly call the emergency services using a special button.

Jackson has also spoken on multiple occasions in her conferences about how this vest could help in the detection of explosives. If a dog wearing the vest found some explosives, he could use the vest to warn the team, and they would be able to act faster and more safely.

Rescue dogs

In addition to this, rescue dogs could use these vests to speed up searches for missing people. Dogs can easily find missing people, thanks to their super-sensitive noses, but they always have to leave the person on their own in order to inform the team, and to guide them to the person.

Using a vest that allows dogs to “talk” could help skip these steps. It will speed up the process and raise the probabilities of saving lives.

When will we see it working? There’s no official date yet, but evidence shows that everything’s running smoothly. It’s very likely that we’ll soon witness one of the best inventions in history.

Photographs sourced from:

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  • Jackson, M., Zeagler, C., & Valentin, G. (2013). FIDO-facilitating interactions for dogs with occupations: wearable dog-activated interfaces. In ISWC ’13.

  • Jackson, M. M., Valentin, G., Freil, L., Burkeen, L., Zeagler, C., Gilliland, S., … Starner, T. (2015). FIDO—Facilitating interactions for dogs with occupations: wearable communication interfaces for working dogs. Personal and Ubiquitous Computing.

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