Researchers make vest that gives service dogs a voice

Georgia resident Barbara Currier is hypoglycemic, a condition that is marked by a deficiency of glucose in the bloodstream, so if her blood sugar drops unexpectedly, she will pass out. But Currier’s Border Collie Blitz is trained to notice her blood sugar falling before she has an episode— usually about 30 minutes prior— to alert her to start eating, reported.

But if Currier ever lost consciousness, Blitz wouldn’t have a way of alerting medics to get her help in time— until now. Currier and Blitz are using a new technology created by Georgia Institute of Technology researchers that enables Blitz to pull a tab on his vest and alert authorities of an emergency.

"They can tell the difference between this explosive and that explosive,” Melody Jackson, director of the Center for BioInterface Resarch at Georgia Tech and an associate professor, told “They (hearing dogs) can tell the difference between an alarm and a doorbell.  But they have no means of expressing themselves. So, we're just giving them a voice."

The vest, which Georgia Tech has dubbed the FIDO vest, has a voice box that says, “Excuse me, my owner needs your attention” whenever Blitz pulls a tab. In a medical emergency, Blitz may also pull a tab that automatically calls 911, or if a severe storm is en route, a hearing dog could pull a tab and send its deaf handler a warning text like, “A tornado siren just went off. We need to get to the basement.” reported that the FIDO Project is still in the works, and that researchers are next trying to make the technology sturdy enough to withstand dogs’ lifestyles.

“They do lie down. They shake.  They itch. They move, and they jump in and out of cars,” Jackson told the news station.

The finished product, however, has the potential to save lives, she said.

“This could change the game for a lot of people,” Jackson said.

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