Get A Handle On Your Dog’s Health

I spend a lot of time laughing at ridiculous technology, but I think I want this little gadget. It’s a harness handle attachment that can give the handler info about their guide dog’s well-being.

Researchers at North Carolina State University have developed a device that allows people who are blind to monitor their guide dogs, in order to keep tabs on the health and well-being of their canine companions.
“Dogs primarily communicate through their movements and posture, which makes it difficult or impossible for people who are blind to fully understand their dogs’ needs on a moment-to-moment basis,” says David Roberts, an assistant professor of computer science at NC State and co-author of a paper describing the new technology. “This challenge is particularly pronounced in guide dogs, who are bred and trained to be outwardly calm and avoid drawing attention to themselves in public.”
This guide-dog harness handle contains electronics that allow users to monitor the breathing and heart rate of their dogs. To address this need, the researchers have developed a suite of technologies that monitor a dog’s breathing and heart rate and share the information with the dog’s handler. …

Sweet! Man, what I wouldn’t have done for one of those when Trix was so stressed out. Maybe I could have figured it out faster. I might have also figured out patterns of when she was more or less anxious.

So the plan is to embed vibrating motors in the harness handle, one near the thumb, and one near the pinkie. They are supposed to be in sync with the dog’s heart rate and breathing…and how the technology picks up that info, I’m still not sure. The hope is that we can more easily pick up signs of stress, illness or heat exhaustion. That seems simple enough, and probably not hard to learn, if at first the amount of input wasn’t a little overwhelming. But since it’s so intuitive, I think I’d catch on quick, and as long as the dog’s heart and breathing were within normal parameters, it would probably slip into the background as the sort of input that I’d take in on a subconscious level.

I really want this to work, so I have some logistical questions. Can the technology be adjusted to fit multiple hand sizes? My hand is definitely smaller than a big man’s hand. Is this something you add to your existing handle, or do you get a whole new handle? If you need a whole new handle, are they eventually going to build them in urgo, offset, and in different lengths? I think about this because I have an extra short urgo handle. How long is the battery life? Is there an ability to turn it off, for example when you’re settled into a meeting and the dog is sleeping under the table, and you’re going to be there for a long time, so you’re pretty sure you know how the dog is doing. Can you conserve power by turning it off?

I’ll be watching for when this thing comes on the market. It sounds pretty freaking cool.

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