Point the red dot of a laser anywhere near a dog, and they’ll obsessively chase and stalk it for hours. So researchers at Tohoku University took that idea one step further, creating a wearable vest covered in flashlights that create targeted dots of light to direct a pup’s movements—essentially creating a remote control dog without any kind of cybernetics.
Highly-trained animals like dogs have been used for decades for exploratory tasks that are either too dangerous, too precarious, or just too cramped for humans. But directing a dog from afar, no matter how obedient it may be, can be tricky in some environments, like when it’s just too loud for the animal to hear verbal commands.
This system may expand potential uses for talented canines. Assuming a handler is still able to maintain a visual of the dog—using an onboard camera or even an overhead drone—they can easily and safely direct its travel by activating the flashlights on the vest which distract and redirect the animal. As long as it’s securely wearing the vest, the dog is never able to actually catch the dot of light holding its attention. It will obsessively chase it until another light appears, changing its direction as needed.
In a way, it’s like a modern-day equivalent of the carrot on a string used to lead a horse, but my dog hated carrots, and university researchers need to research something. Maybe next time they’ll create a remote-controlled cat.