If you have a four-legged companion and you are away regularly, you may have already tested one of these CCTV devices that can check if the dog is okay or possibly tell him something if the device has it. a speaker.
In these devices, however, it is always humans who take the initiative to contact their animal, which in turn remains passive.
A research team from the University of Glasgow, however, decided to reverse the roles by giving control of these calls to the main stakeholders: the dogs themselves, creating at the same time what the researchers called the "DogPhone". .
Promote animal welfare
To design this device, Dr. Ilyena Hirskyj-Douglas, project manager, carried out various experiments with her canine companion Zack, a ten-year-old black Labrador.
She first offered various toys to her pet, in order to see which he preferred to interact with.
It was ultimately a ball that was chosen and that was fitted with an accelerometer.
Thanks to this sensor, connected to a computer, Zack could initiate calls on a laptop himself by shaking his ball.
This object was not created to please the owners, but to improve the well-being of the animal: “I think a lot of these devices are really important in giving dogs choices or options. to do things for the sake of enrichment, ”explains Ilyena Hirskyj-Douglas.
“In the case of a video call from a human, the dog has no control over it.
Dogs have been trained to answer calls, but no one really knows what a dog would do if they had control of a video call.
An area of research to invest
The experiment was carried out with Zack for several weeks. “I gave it to him whenever he was left home alone for a long time so he could call me,” says Ilyena Hirskyj-Douglas. She explains that at first the animal was a little confused and called regularly involuntarily, before gradually decreasing the calls: “It was very exciting to receive calls from him at first, then it became a bit. more stressful for me, because in the end I sometimes didn't get video calls all day. I thought, "Oh he usually calls me at that time!" "".
For now, the DogPhone is still in the midst of an experimentation phase, but the researcher believes that it is a field full of potential: “I think this experience has really shown me that the technology is very different for animals. , but that they can nevertheless be active players in our interactions.
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