New AI-enabled device could train dogs while their owner is away

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New AI device could help train dogs when their owners aren't home

Training your new dog is an extremely important part of bringing a pet into your home. After all, no one wants to deal with an unruly canine that barks, bites, and causes mayhem at every turn. However, getting a dog to sit, stay, and lie down isn’t always easy.

While part of the training process will always be dependent on the connection between a dog and its owner, researchers from Colorado State University have a smart solution that might lend a helping hand. They designed an artificial intelligence (AI) system that can train a dog when its owner isn’t home, Digital Trends reports.

The team published its work on the preprint electronic repository arXiv while it awaits peer-review.

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Smart Training

Although it has made the lives of humans miserable, the COVID-19 pandemic has been great for dogs. Without having to go into the office for work, their owners are now home more than ever before. However, that trend won’t last as vaccines roll out and employees return to their workplaces later this year.

The prototype gadget researchers developed could be a valuable tool for dog owners that can’t dedicate enough time to training their dog. It functions similarly to an Amazon Echo, but uses a camera and a computer vision algorithm to monitor what a dog is doing.

First, the device issues a command like “sit” or “lay down.” Then, it observes the dog to see how it responds. If it follows the command for a certain amount of time, the device automatically drops a treat. If good behavior isn’t displayed in response to the command, no treat is dispensed.

The researchers note that their device uses a low-powered computer called the Nvidia Jetson Nano to carry out its algorithmic calculations. It analyzes video footage in real-time to determine whether or not the dog is obeying.

Researcher and co-author Tom Cavey told Digital Trends, “The device allows us to capture live video and use it in a machine learning model to figure out what the dog is doing in real-time, totally independent of any local or remote connectivity.”

Going Commercial

It’s easy to see why dog owners might value a device like this. It could give their dog a behavior lesson with virtually no effort on their part besides loading the device with treats every once in a while. Of course, the system isn’t perfect. For instance, it may work better if the device uses a recording of the owner’s voice rather than a computerized one. This would ensure the dog learns to obey commands from its owner and not just the device.

That being said, the researchers are still far from commercializing their device—although that remains an option for the future. Co-author Jason Stock tells Digital Trends, “Our approach consists of low-cost hardware and software components that would allow for commercialization of a relatively affordable product. We consider the possibility of developing this further given a greater budget for creating a better-functioning prototype, as well as improving the model and dataset to identify more behaviors—perhaps even those perceived to be negative.”

So, while this tech is still several years away from the consumer pet tech market, it could make a big splash when it arrives. Keep an eye on it in the years to come.

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