Researchers from the OU are developing technology that will improve the mental health, performance, and welfare of Mobility Assistance Dogs across the UK.
Supporting dogs to support humans
The OU Animal-Computer Interaction (ACI) Lab, which is dedicated to researching and developing interactive technology to support animals, improve their welfare and foster positive human-animal relationships, is developing a portable toolkit for Mobility Assistance Dogs and their assisted humans through its Dog-Smart Homes project. The technology, which can be fitted around the home, will be tailored to the sensory, cognitive and physical characteristics of dogs enabling them to easily operate doors, lights and other domestic appliances.
The project is supported by Petplan Charitable Trust and aims to launch its first canine-friendly toolkit by 2018.
A dog-friendly toolkit
Head of the OU Animal-Computer Interaction Lab, Dr Clara Mancini, said:
“We are concerned about the challenges faced on a day-to-day basis by working dogs, who are required to interact with environments that are designed to be accessible to humans, but that are hardly accessible to dogs.
“Working with Petplan Charitable Trust will enable us to extend the range of portable controls we have developed, and improve the lives of both Mobility Assistance Dogs and the individuals who rely on them.”
The wonderful work of Assistance dogs
Chair of Trustees at Petplan Charitable Trust, David Simpson, said:
We have all become so used to the wonderful work and service Assistance and working dogs perform in society that we often overlook how we can make their lives, and the roles they provide, easier. The Dogs-Smart Homes project will address this issue and we are delighted to be supporting the OU ACI Lab.