If you've ever longed for a way to monitor your dog's social life, map out its buddy network and sense who its true friends really are, you might have been waiting for SNIF.
The Social Networking in Fur, or SNIF, project is a wearable computer system for dogs that allows their owners to monitor the animals' behavior and capture their social networks.
The technology, designed by a group of researchers at MIT's Physical Language Workshop, also gives dog owners the chance to "petwork," or network through their pets.
The system consists of a technologically enhanced collar, leash and wall-mounted leash-docking station. In prototype now, the system will be linked to a web-based community containing information about pets in the program and their owners.
The collar and leash have an LED display and a variety of sensors for recording climatic conditions, the pet's activity levels and the presence of other dogs equipped with SNIF collars.
When out for a walk, the canine's collar flashes a unique "collar tone" that provides its social network ID to other doggies' SNIF collars. Then a secure ID transfer takes place.
Owners can record their dog's reactions to each other by pressing "negative" or "positive" buttons on the leash. When released to play with a group, the dog's collar records the IDs of pets that it has spent the most time with, along with the corresponding activity level. The collar relays the data to the leash when reattached.
The leash then uploads the information to a SNIF server. On the website, pet owners can learn about their dogs' new friends through profiles created by their owners.
Unlike human social-networking sites, where users typically confirm they have met, the system automatically verifies whether the mutts have actually sniffed each other. It also reports on the status of a relationship and how often they see each other.
Besides giving pet lovers a keener insight into their dog's favorite friends, it allows owners to play a stronger role in directing their pet's social networking.
Owners can avoid mutts previously classified as unfriendly, or detect their pet's pals when they are within range. They could set up dog walks based on mutual compatibility.
"It would be helpful to know in advance if another dog is aggressive and if Bogart (my white shepherd) has had any problems with them in the past," says Marilyn Heywood Paige, a dog owner from Philadelphia. "I can see people setting up play dates for their dogs based on compatibility. If I know that Bogart has the most positive, active interaction with a particular dog, I would e-mail that owner and ask when they usually walk their dog and if we could arrange to meet at the park. That would be quite good, actually."
When in the docking station, the leash becomes a display device, alerting users to the status of their pet's social network. If a dog's buddy goes out for a walk, the leash will play the buddy's unique collar tone.
"Just as in IM clients, the SNIF hardware makes it easy to know when your dog's pals have gone out for a walk," said Jonathan Gips, one of the SNIF team members. "Instead of being online, your friends are marked as 'outside.'"
But allowing other SNIF members to see what neighborhood dogs are up to leads to concerns about privacy and safety.
"The idea of being alerted when one dog, and their attractive owner, is in the park, with a view to intercepting them for social interaction, could be akin to stalking," says Alex Irwin, a dog lover based in Canada.
Irwin also suggested labeling other dogs as "negative" could lead to arguments or moves to ban unpopular dogs from parks or certain areas. Plus, the system could be used for Big Brother monitoring: How often is the dog taken to the park? How long does it spend there?
But the researchers say the system does not allow for monitoring of the dogs' positions. Instead of using GPS or cell-phone towers, which can pinpoint location, the researchers plan to deploy fixed infrared beacons at pet hot spots around a city, and they emphasize that consideration for privacy will be designed into the system. The goal, they say, is to exchange enough location and timing information to increase the likelihood of a meeting without making people feel like they are constantly being tracked.
So far, the team has demonstrated working prototypes of the collar and leash but have yet to set up a website. They expect to have the initial rollout in New York.
Future research directions include displaying a dog-walking weather index and the density of dogs in the neighborhood.
With the potential to broaden not only a pet's social horizons but also its owner's, does SNIF help the dog or its owner?
"Psychologically, the pressure to interact socially is lessened by the activity of walking a dog," says Noah Fields, another team member. "Ideally, we want SNIF to function in much the same way. We believe that SNIF will allow dog owners who live hectic lives to use technology to maintain a sense of community."
Source: http://www.wired.com/news/culture/0,128 ... _tophead_1
It will allow you to record wich dogs your dog likes the most, set up playdates via email, know if a mean dog is the dog park... I think it's cool.
|Wow! Pretty darned technical. What will they think of next??
|Very neat, what a cool collar!
Thanks for sharing...
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