June 22, 2017 02:49 PM

In the pet adoption world the phrase, “Who rescued who?” is popular. Pets bring so many positive things into our lives, it can seem like they are the ones who saved us. Now, it turns out they really can.

Melody Jackson, an associate professor and director of the animal-computer interaction lab at the Georgia Institute of Technology, and her team are working on finding new ways dogs can help their owners during medical emergencies, reports CNN.

One of their most recent developments is a touchscreen designed for dogs to use during an emergency. Jackson has found that canines can be trained to use this device, which is similar to a telephone, to contact help when they see their owners fall or when they hear a specific signal from their human.

“The dog could go over to a touchscreen and touch a series of icons on the touchscreen and call 911 with your location,” says Jackson, who was inspired to start the FIDO Project at Georgia Tech, after her grandmother fell and could not reach anyone for help. “We think that, literally, this could change lives, make lives so much better, and be a life-saver.”

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Along with improving communication between dogs and humans, Jackson also works as a dog trainer, and is confident that the touchscreen her team is working on will be easy for dog owners and their companions or service pets to learn.

“A medical alert dog may need to summon 911 for their person who is having a seizure. Or a military working dog might need to tell their handler what kind of explosive they just found,” she said. “The dogs had no way reliably to do this. So we started focusing on technology to allow working dogs and specifically service dogs to communicate.”

Jackson and her team have already trained several dogs to approach the touchscreen and press three different buttons when they hear the ‘help’ command. In the real world, this action would trigger the device to call a preprogrammed emergency contact like a family member or 911.

This command requires three buttons to prevent accidental bumps and misdials. From the color of the buttons to the size of the device, FIDO Project has designed everything about the touchscreen to be dog-friendly.

Along with this touchscreen, FIDO Project is also working on a vest for dogs that comes equipped with an emergency cord either owners or pets can pull. When activated, this cord would be able to call emergency contacts, or play a pre-recorded message to alert others in the area. This last option would be especially helpful to diabetic alert dogs and seizure detection dogs, allowing them to tell bystanders that their owner is having a seizure and in need of help.

The future of health care is looking optimistically furry!

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