Perhaps the most surprising thing about this story is that it took this long. You know how people are about their dogs. When I lived in New York City, I actually attended a canine cocktail party. They served a lot of liver. Back then, technology wasn’t even a glint in a canine’s eye. Now, it’s all the rage. And here I used to make fun of people who dress their dogs in little sweaters. Google Glass scientist Clint Zeagler and technical lead Thad Starner are collaborating with Melody Jackson, a professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology, to develop wearable technology for dogs called FIDO—“facilitating interactions for dogs with occupations.”
FIDO isn’t meant to give dogs the capability of secretly recording others at the dog park, but it would give them a voice. The device enables dogs to activate a sensor that transmits a message their owners can hear through headphones or see on a computer. Early tests included trying out different sensors that can be activated by biting, pulling, or panting. Studies indicated that it didn’t take long for the dogs to learn how to trigger FIDO, and that doing so created an audible sound.
The applications of this technology are multifold. Crafty parents could get the dog’s help in busting a kid coming home past curfew, or a dog could let his owner know that it just took a dump on the neighbor’s lawn. Or FIDO could be used to help bomb-sniffing dogs convey information to their handlers about the type or location of an explosive. Dogs could give the ATLAS rescue robot a run for its money with an enhanced ability to alert crews to injured or buried people. FIDO could be all kinds of useful for seeing eye dogs as well. I think dogs may have just become man’s best friend. Again.
Just for fun, I decided to see what other technology exists for dogs. I have a cat, and all she wants is a plastic bag and some catnip. She barely uses her iPhone and hasn’t been on Facebook in weeks. Which is probably all for the best, because it turns out there are a bunch of pretty crazy gadgets out there for pets and I don’t want her hounding me for them.
You can track your pet, of course, via GPS. There’s a digital camera that clips into a collar that will take pictures at programmed intervals so you can see what your pet is really doing when you’re gone. I’m not so sure that’s such a great idea—pets do some pretty nasty business. You can even connect your cat to Twitter. Sony has developed a “lifelogging” device that includes a camera, GPS, and Bluetooth technology so it can record and process the information, and send out a corresponding Tweet. I wonder if there’s a hashtag for hairball. The possibilities are endless. Except they’re not, really—there are only 11 phrases thus far. Cats are already recording their own video diaries too. There was also a dog-friendly hackathon in New York City last February (maybe the canine cocktail parties are now after-parties).
While I have no doubt that these technologies will sell, and that some of them will actually be pretty awesome (kitty Twitter, I’m looking at you), I’m glad there are people poking fun at this.
This is the greatest website I’ve seen in a while. PetBookK9, the world’s first laptop for dogs. The hilarious thing is that at first, I totally bought it (as in believed, not purchased). Then I read about “delicious and durable 100% organic rawhide casing” and “SlobberGuard technology” and now just want to congratulate whoever made this site.
I think Jackson sums up this trend well: “At first people are going to say it’s weird, but then everybody will want one.” I think the same could be said of the dogs.