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US military making augmented reality goggles for dogs to guide them from a distance

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In-development augmented reality goggles on a dog. (Courtesy Command Sight)

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WSYX/WTTE) — The U.S. Army is trying to make goggles for working dogs so their handlers can issue commands and see what they see from a distance.

The military often uses working dogs to scout areas for explosives devices and hazardous materials and assist in rescue operations. A working dog was injured while assisting with the raid that killed ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Handlers may also have to venture into dangerous areas with their dogs to give commands, but that could soon change with new augmented reality goggles.

The project is being developed by Command Sight, Inc for the Army Research Laboratory, according to the Army's website. The goggles would allow the working dogs' handlers to see what the dog sees and issue commands from a safe distance.

The Army says that the goggles are designed to fit each dog with a "visual indictor" that will allow the dog to be directed to a specific spot and react to the visual cue.

Augmented reality works differently for dogs than for humans,” said Dr. Stephen Lee, an Army Research Office senior scientist. “AR will be used to provide dogs with commands and cues; it’s not for the dog to interact with it like a human does. This new technology offers us a critical tool to better communicate with military working dogs.

Currently, military working dogs are usually directed by hand signals or laser pointers which means the handler must be either in the dog's line of sight or nearby to point the laser. Handlers also use walkie-talkies for audio cues, but the Army says dogs can confuse verbal commands without a visual cue.

Dr. A.J. Peper, the founder of Seattle-based Command Sight Inc. started the project in 2017.

For now, the project is still wired meaning the handler has to be within leash distance of the dog, but the next phase of the project is to make it wireless. Peper called the initial research "extremely promising."

“Much of the research to date has been conducted with my rottweiler, Mater. His ability to generalize from other training to working through the AR goggles has been incredible," Peper said. "We still have a way to go from a basic science and development perspective before it will be ready for the wear and tear our military dogs will place on the units.”

The project has completed Phase 1 and will enter Phase 2.

Last year, a retired Navy lieutenant commander and professor at the University of Cincinnati in partnership with Zeteo Tech, Inc. developed the Canine Auditory Protection System, known as CAPS, to prevent short-term hearing loss in military working dogs.