Sky is playing and playing. His mom tells him to take a break and drink some water. He does. A little while later, after they play some more, his mom tells him to go lay down. He does.
Sky is a Border Collie. His mom is Doctor Melody Jackson. Together they are changing and elevating the relationship between people and their dogs.
Inside Georgia Tech’s Animal Computer Interaction Lab, Sky is the chief test pilot for technologies being developed by Jackson and her team for working dogs. It’s technology which gives voice to dogs.
“All dogs have language comprehension of about a two year old human”
If you think your dog understands what you’re saying, you’re right. Sort of. “All dogs have language comprehension of about a two year old human,” Jackson says. For Border Collies like Sky, that comprehension is even greater. Sky has the comprehension of a four year old child. The ability to comprehend language is a very real thing in our dogs.
“Dogs have a broca’s area which is what we have to understand language and it is to understand human language. So that is fascinating. Dogs have evolved to have a part of their brain that understands human language.”
Jackson’s team is focused on helping working dogs do a better job of helping their people. Sky wears a vest with straps hanging on the side, a ball on the end. When instructed, she cranes her head and tugs on the strap. A voice says, “My owner is hurt. Please follow me.”
Photos | 'Talking Dog' at Georgia Tech
There is other technology being tested that allows a dog to call 911 with a tug of the strap. GPS would lead help to the dog and their owner. Still more new technology is being tested in Georgia with various agencies with bomb sniffing dogs. The vests allow the dogs to differentiate between a stable and dangerous substance, all with the tug of a strap.
Deaf owners could know if a baby is crying or someone is at the door. The possibilities are life changing. Small, life shifting possibilities.
Forget about that saying, ‘You can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Doctor Jackson says, “The fact that old dogs can't learn new tricks is just silly. He's 8 years old he learns new things every single day.”