US Army AR specs simulate laser pointer allowing human handler to direct military dogs from a distance, while seeing what the dog sees
The US Army is working with a private firm called Command Sight to develop augmented reality goggles that could be used to direct military dogs from a distance.
Military dogs can be used to scout terrain for explosives or other hazards, but must be directed by a human.
This is normally done using hand signals or laser pointers, both of which require the human handler to be close by.
Dogs can also receive audio commands via remote-linked audio equipment, but this can lead to confusion for the dogs in some cases.
The goggles simulate a laser pointer directly the animal where to go, while its handler sees what the dog sees via a lightweight camera.
Command Sight’s founder, Dr A.J. Peper, said much of the research has been conducted with his own Rottweiler, named Mater (pictured).
He said Mater had shown an “incredible” ability to apply training from other techniques to working with the AR goggles.
Initial testing indicates “the system could fundamentally change how military canines are deployed in the future”, Peper said.
Stephen Lee, a senior scientist at the Army Research Office, told US armed forces newspaper Stars and Stripes that the research demonstrates dogs “can recognise things in an augmented reality world”.
The unit is based on goggles called Rex Specs already worn by dogs for deployment in inclement conditions or for aerial drops.
Each prototype is built based on a 3D scan of a specific dog that determines where to place optics and electrical components.
Development has been funded to date by the US government’s Small Business Innovation Research programme, with oversight by the Army Research Office.
The technology has completed the first phase of a three-phase SBIR plan and has been approved to continue on to Phase II, the US Army said.
The Pentagon’s Rapid Reaction Technology Office has provided additional funding for second-phase development, which is to involve working with the US Navy Special Forces to build prototypes that will be tested on their military working dogs.
The initial prototype uses cables to link the dog back to the control system, but the plan is now to develop a production-level wireless model of the AR spectacles over the next two years.