Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Rescue teams aided by image capture and transmission...and dogs

Getting a person into an inhospitable location such as a disaster zone, or an area of conflict, isn't always easy. Dogs, however, don't have the same sorts of issues and can travel places where an individual might have difficulty.

So why not equip them with cameras and microphones, so their handlers can see exactly what they're up to and whether they may have spotted anyone in distress?

Indeed, that high-tech vision of the rescue dog of the future was exactly what engineers at Wood & Douglas (Tadley, Hampshire, UK) had in mind when they developed the Portable All-terrain Wireless System (PAWS) -- a system that is, naturally enough, designed to be worn by search and rescue dogs.

Despite looking like a Hollywood sci-fi creation, with its head-mounted video camera and microphones, PAWS lets a rescue dog search without any discomfort, beaming video images back to its handler.

With a camera that supports low light and infrared night-vision options, the dog-mounted video system can be used for search and rescue, supporting military operations, or even explosives and drug detection.

Alan Wood, managing director of Wood & Douglas, said that while it may look unusual or raise a smile at first sight, the capability to see a dog's point of view makes a hazardous job safer for both handler and dog and helps save lives. The dogs are not put off by the technology they carry and can give their handler a view of areas that they are unable to get to themselves.

The company says that PAWS can be adapted to be worn by different dogs, delivering a video feed in real time to either a desktop or to a wearable receiver with a hands-free or head-mounted monitor.

Despite the fact that the system has been designed to be worn by a dog, I can't help but think that the folks at Wood & Douglas might well have created a product here that is far from being a dog itself.

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