The US Army is trialing augmented reality (AR) goggles for military dogs, which will allow their instructors to navigate them from afar.
The military dogs usually help scout areas for hazardous materials, narcotics or explosive devices. With the assistance of the augmented reality devices, the dogs could be easily guided and instructed to follow specific commands, all while keeping the army men out of sight of danger.
US Army Research Lab published an article, along with a tweet, explaining their latest development. The project is funded by the Small Business Innovation Research program and is being managed by the US Army Research Laboratory.
The prototype was initially developed by the founder of The Command Sight, Dr A J Peper, who wanted to contribute to bridging the communication gap between military dogs and their handlers.
AR dog goggles could help protect Soldiers https://t.co/L9I9JOBpzg A new technology allows a @USArmy dog’s handler to give it specific directional commands while keeping Soldiers remote and out of sight! @armyfutures @usarmyccdc #ARO #innovation pic.twitter.com/V2Mdd7wOEO
— U.S. Army CCDC Army Research Laboratory (@ArmyResearchLab) October 6, 2020
How does it work?
Augmented reality technology exists outside the world of science fiction movies. Smart wearables can display an augmented view of our normal surroundings. Google Glass was one of the first smart-glass wearables to hit the market, and the technology has evolved ever since.
The Command Sight’s goggles will display commands as visuals for the military dogs to follow. According to the US Army’s official website, the system uses RexSpecs military glasses that the dogs already wear for protection from harsh conditions or aerial deployments.
An optoelectronic component has been added to them to create a heads-up display. These displays can place digital cues over the viewpoint of the canine without causing them to look away.
Earlier, the military dogs were guided through hand signals or laser pointers which could endanger the handlers as it required them to be close to the animals most of the time. Just imagine that now these pointers were provided to the dogs with the instructors nowhere in sight. Their handlers can access all of these visuals through a chest or wrist-mounted display.
How is it useful?
Dr Stephen Lee, an ARO senior scientist, said in the press release that such technology is critical for better communication with military working dogs. The augmented reality technology will not only understand canine perception and behaviour but also open up newer possibilities in the area of technological research, he added.
Despite its primary function to protect the warfighters, the Army has not mentioned any concerns over the animals’ safety. Also, the US military has already been developing an augmented reality contact lens for its soldiers in the warfield. They have also invested in Microsoft’s HoloLens 2 to be used in military battlefields.
With the Army’s interest in the animal wearable head-mounted display, it will not be long before similar prototypes are successfully built for humans as well. This could give the US Military an obvious upper-hand in its defence strategies.