Web project goes to the dogs; No matter where he
is, owner can play with, feed his pooches
WOLFVILLE - Andre Trudel loves his dogs -
all eight of them.
So being able to virtually
feed and play with them from anywhere in the world is important to him.
a computer expert at Acadia
designed a program that allows him to play with, feed and talk to his dogs
from any computer with Internet access.
"There's a lot of
interesting work that can be done in terms of interacting with animals
through a computer," Mr. Trudel said in
a recent interview on campus.
He first saw a similar
project involving computer and dog interfaces being done at the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and thought it would be a good
opportunity to combine his love of dogs with his computer expertise.
"I went to the website
and thought 'I can do better than that,' " said Mr. Trudel, who in his spare time runs a kennel from
his home in Gaspereau.
So he enlisted the services
of Danny Silver, another
computer expert at Acadia who specializes
in computer interfaces.
"I really became
intrigued, not knowing where this would go," said Mr. Silver. "I
thought it would be interesting to see what a dog is capable of doing with
a computer system."
Also enlisted for the project
was Fung Hu, a computer science master's student,
who helped set up a special server on the Internet. She is also writing her
master's thesis on the project, called Human Computer Dog Interface.
The three "cobbled"
together some parts, including an automatic dog feeder, a ball-throwing
device, stereo speakers and a computer video camera.
From a remote location, a
computer operator can check in on the dog visually through the camera.
Several commands are programmed into the computer, including come, sit and
stay, along with the words of praise "good girl."
has been using his 10-year-old, highly trained English springer
spaniel Twist for the project.
By pressing various commands
on the remote computer, the ball thrower is activated and Twist runs off to chase the ball. She then returns
it and drops it back into the throwing machine. Another button releases
food for her as a reward.
The other commands can be
made through the stereo speakers. One challenge of the project has been
having good enough fidelity for the dog to recognize its owner's voice.
The three see the project as
having some commercial potential and have applied for a research grant to
improve the equipment and expand the project.
"The pet industry is a
multibillion-dollar industry," said Mr. Trudel.
With his device, a dog owner can sit in an Internet cafe in Paris and check in on
his dog at a kennel.
It also has potential for use
with disabled persons and seniors, said Mr. Silver.
They plan to get other
students involved and use the project as a teaching model in their campus
© 2007 The
Chronicle-Herald - Halifax.
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