UK SCIENTIST INVENTS DEVICE FOR DOGS TO VIDEO CALL OWNERS; AIMS TO EASE SEPARATION ANXIETY

Source: Republic World (Extract)
Posted: November 19, 2021

The device named ‘DogPhone’ is put inside a ball that operates using an accelerometer. When a dog shakes the ball, a video call to the owner is initiated.

A United Kingdom-based computer scientist has invented a device to decrease separation anxiety in domestic dogs who are left alone at home. The gadget, called DogPhone, allows furry canines to make video calls to their owners and vice versa. Dr Ilyena Hirskjy-Douglas of the University of Glasgow, along with her colleagues from Aalto University in Finland and her 10-year-old labrador, Zack, developed the device, believed to be the very first of its kind.

The device is put inside a ball that operates when a dog grabs and shakes the ball which is connected with an accelerometer, a sort of sensor, Sky News reported. As per the mechanism, the accelerometer sensor would detect motion and will further initiate a video call on the device’s screen. On the other hand, the owner might make a video call to their pet, who will respond to the call by moving the ball. More tests are being conducted on the prototype. The University of Glasgow took to Twitter to share a video of Dr Hirskjy-Douglas explaining the mechanism that would reduce pet anxiety. 

Pet dog video calls owner via DogPhone

While experimenting with the device, Zack phoned Dr Hirskjy-Douglas by lifting and shaking the ball which prompted a video chat on her laptop. During the testing days, Zack was left all by himself for nearly eight hours with the device, and researchers believe the gadget might help pets feel less uncomfortable when their owners are not present, Sky News reported. 

Dr Hirskjy-Douglas explained that with DogPhone, she focused to find a new method to change Zack or any other pet from a ‘usee’ of technology, to a ‘user’. She believes that it will give an opportunity for pets to make active choices about when, where, and how they can place a call, The Independent reported.

Zack has been handed the item to play with for 16 days over the course of three months after multiple demonstrations on how to utilise it to establish a video chat. Even though Zack may have made some “accidental” calls while sleeping on the ball, researchers claim that a few of the calls entailed the dog displaying his owner the toys as well as approaching the screen, implying that he wanted to engage with her. In addition to this, Dr Hirskyj-Douglas answered the calls by showing Zack her surroundings on her phone, which included her workplace, a restaurant, and a street busker, while she was seen coming towards the screen to acknowledge her.

‘Very few devices consider what dogs themselves might want’: Dr Hirskyj-Douglas 

Dr Hirskjy-Douglas who is an expert in animal-computer connection at the University’s School of Computing Science said she intended the gadget to allow Zack to choose whether or not to call her. She went on to say that dog owners may purchase plenty of internet-connected ‘smart toys’ for their pets from the market. “However, the vast majority of them are built with the needs of dog owners in mind, allowing them to observe or interact with their pets while away from home. Very few of them seem to consider what dogs themselves might want, or how technology might benefit them as living beings with thoughts and feelings of their own,” The Independent quoted her as saying.

The findings of the new study article focusing on the labrador’s engagements with a prototype DogPhone will be presented at the 2021 ACM Interactive Surfaces and Spaces Conference in Lodz, Poland.

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