Tech Talk with Intel: Will Robotic Dogs Guide the Blind?

A dog and a person.Will robots and other technology replace guide dogs?

I’ll never forget the first day of service dog team training. One of the first things the trainers told us was, “Your new dog is not a robot.” And, here we are 20 years later talking about robots as assistance dogs.

Intel’s technology, as it relates to assistance dogs, was recently discussed in an article by Scott Jung, iQ Contributor & Senior Editor at MedGadget. During International Assistance Dog Week, Intel suggested technologies that honor not only the dogs that faithfully guide the visually impaired to greater independence, but also the work they inspire.

The report explains that because guide dogs can’t go everywhere, and can’t live with everyone, doctors, engineers, and scientists are developing technology that can help people with visual impairment.

In Japan an electronics company and a university have teamed up to work on guide robots. The project, which has been underway since 2009, now has refined their earlier models, which look less like R2-D2 and operate more like a dog now, with four robotic legs that can climb stairs, and the ability to respond to verbal instructions.

Other companies around the world are working on wearable technology, like the Eyeronman, a vest which uses LIDAR, a sort of laser radar, to detect obstacles. Smart glasses that use technology to enhance vision are another strategy being explored. And there’s the BrainPort, which converts images seen by a video camera into an “image” the user feels on his tongue.

As the article concludes, “While robots and wearable devices don’t look, bark or snuggle like dogs, the guide dogs we salute this week and the assistive technology they’ve inspired have something very important in common: both help the visually impaired lead more independent lives.”

You can read the full article at http://iq.intel.com/the-future-of-fetching-robotic-dogs-guide-the-blind/

Assistance Dogs in the Workplace: Wayne Wicklund and Snow Shadow

Hearing Dog Snow.Hearing Dog Snow helps Wayne Wicklund with his work as a computer tech and webmaster.

In the International Assistance Dog Week newsletter, we’ve been asking people to share their stories of their dogs in the workplace. Anne Wicklund wrote in from Arizona about her husband Wayne’s hearing dog, Snow, and Snow’s successor, Snow Shadow.

I have to tell you how valuable our service dog is to my husband. He is always at his side – of course – and has saved his life many times. Our Snow passed in September and his successor Snow Shadow is only 10 months old and already bossing his dad around.

Shadow:

• makes sure my husband goes to bed by 8 pm because HE knows Wayne is ill and/or tired,

• Shadow won’t let Wayne walk when he knows Wayne is too ill and too tired, and drags Wayne home

• When Wayne is away from home and becomes disoriented and confused, Shadow sits and waits for Wayne to recover then pulls him home or to the car

• Shadow alerts Wayne when needs his meds or inhaler

• Shadow alerts on sounds and danger, and people too close for comfort

• Shadow alerts on smells, allergic reactions and chemicals that shut down Wayne’s lungs

• Shadow braces Wayne until he regains his balance

Wayne works from home and volunteers at our local Museum –he is webmaster for the website, tech for all their computers, and volunteers at the VA for Viet Nam Veterans. Wayne and Shadow attend numerous political functions locally and around the world and travel extensively

Snow Prince and Snow Shadow have inspired the writing and publication of two books: “My Ears Have a Wet Nose: Acquiring, Training & Loving a Hearing Dog,” and “I Have a Wet Nose . . . and I have a job,” an educational coloring book about service dogs. The next book will be published in 2014, which is a “Handbook for Service Dogs: The do’s and don’ts.”


Read about Snow the chamber ambassador

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International Assistance Dog Week 2014 is August 3-9. Learn more about IADW and subscribe to the newsletter at http://www.assistancedogweek.org/about/.

Tell us how your assistance dog helped you to get and/or keep your job. Send in photos of you and your assistance dog at work. You can send your stories and photos to workinglikedogs@gmail.com.

Assistance Dogs in the Workplace: Lisa Loftis and Diabetes Alert Dog Ija

High School teacher Lisa Loftis and her Diabetes Alert Dog, Ija,  work at the Creative Education Preparatory Institute (CEPI).High School teacher Lisa Loftis and her Diabetes Alert Dog, Ija, work at the Creative Education Preparatory Institute (CEPI).

In the International Assistance Dog Week newsletter, we’ve been asking people to share their stories of their dogs in the workplace.

Here’s the story shared with us by Lisa Loftis.
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Language Arts teacher Lisa Loftis and her Diabetes Alert Dog, Ija, go to work each day during the school year at the Creative Education Preparatory Institute (CEPI),  a small charter high school in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Ija, whose name is pronounced with a long “e” sound to start, and ends with a sound like the last part of amnesia, Lisa says, has been paired with Lisa for about a year and a half. This was after about a year and a half of training.

Ija has helped Lisa a lot, alerting her to high or low blood sugar levels 15 – 20 minutes before her best equipment can. Lisa loves being a teacher and enjoys helping her students. Having Ija with her means Lisa loses much less teaching time

Everything went smoothly when Ija joined Lisa on the job. For one thing, the school administration at CEPI was fully aware that Lisa was training with Ija, and that Ija would be coming to school with Lisa when her training was complete. The students were also supportive. Key Club members even organized a fundraising project to help with expenses.

Ija was the first assistance dog at the school, and the school director had a few questions and concerns, but was very supportive. The administration just asked Lisa to keep Ija with her at all times and to keep her on leash. Whether in the classroom or the lunchroom, Ija is with Lisa.

A school visit by a dog trainer from Assistance Dogs of the West, the organization in Santa Fe that trained Ija, helped both the students and teachers at CEPI learn more about what Ija was trained to do and how they should behave around her.

Some students do still ask to pet Ija, but Lisa just tells them that they can pet her after they graduate. Then when her former students come back to CEPI to visit and tell Lisa what they’re doing, she makes good on her promise. Otherwise the students know that Ija is on the job, and shouldn’t be distracted.

Lisa also hears from students sometimes that they feel sorry for Ija because they think all she does is work. So Lisa started a Facebook page, in part to post pictures showing Ija when she’s not working. Ija enjoys swimming and hiking, going on vacation out-of-state during the summer, and sometimes just hanging out at home, lounging on the sofa.   

Whether at school, out for dinner, or visiting a doctor’s office, Lisa says the best confirmation that Ija is a well-trained assistance dog is hearing people say, “Oh, I didn’t even know your dog was with you,” when they see Ija get up and leave with her.

In addition to that, of course, is the fact that Ija is constantly attentive to Lisa, monitoring her diabetes and alerting her when needed. Having Ija on the job means Lisa can be better at her job of teaching high school students.
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Read this longer article about Lisa and Ija written by Kate Kelly: http://americacomesalive.com/2014/08/04/diabetic-alert-dog-permits-teacher-live-normally/

International Assistance Dog Week 2014 is August 3-9. Learn more about IADW and subscribe to the newsletter at http://www.assistancedogweek.org/about/.

Tell us how your assistance dog helped you to get and/or keep your job. Send in photos of you and your assistance dog at work. You can send your stories and photos to workinglikedogs@gmail.com.

Assistance Dogs in the Workplace: Kathy Taylor and Hearing Dog Janet

Kathy Taylor and Hearing Dog Janet driving to workKathy Taylor and her CCI Hearing Dog Janet travel a lot for Kathy’s job as a System Designer-Engineer with CenturyLink

In the May issue of the International Assistance Dog Week newsletter, we asked people to share their stories of their dogs in the workplace.

Here is a story shared by Kathy Taylor.  
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From the moment I received my Hearing Dog Janet in the spring of 2008 from Canine Companions for Independence, we hit the road working as a team across the nation deploying business CPE (customer premises equipment) products for CenturyLink. I work in field operations as a System Designer-Engineer which requires extensive traveling to customer sites.

When the alarm goes off in the morning it’s a bouncing Labrador that greets me; if a co-worker should happen to knock on my hotel door I no longer miss the opportunity to meet for breakfast or perhaps join in going out as a group for dinner.

No longer do I have to sleep sitting up at night with my hearing aids in for fear of missing my early morning flight, for Janet will keep nudging me until I get up. Now I can rest peacefully knowing if the fire alarms should go off in the night, Janet will nudge me awake.

Also, while driving to customer sites, if Janet hears any police/fire or emergency sirens, she will nudge me. In May of this year while on a business trip in Alabama when tornados were moving thru the area, it was Janet that alerted me to the tornado sirens and led me from my third floor hotel room to safety.

While at home I no longer miss people ringing the door bell or knocking on the back door. Nor do I miss the oven timers, microwave timers, or dryer signals, as Janet will simply nudge me and lead me to the sound sources.

For the first time in my life I can now visit a doctor’s / dentist office and not have to scope the room out to sit facing the exam room hallway in order to watch for the assistant to call my name. I can now sit wherever I wish and read a magazine / book or simply watch the lobby TV. When my name is called, Janet will nudge my leg and sit up, wanting to lead me to the assistant who has called my name.

It may not sound like much but in the past, no matter how much I informed office employees, the message of my hearing impairment never quite made it to the person calling my name over and over again. My appointment has even been skipped because I failed to hear the office staff call my name, but not anymore, all because of Janet.

There is not a day that goes by that Janet doesn’t display excellence and devotion, all for a scratch and a pat.
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Recent newspaper article featuring Kathy and Janet: http://www.journalgazette.net/article/20140705/LOCAL/307059984

This year International Assistance Dog Week is August 3-9. Learn more about IADW and subscribe to the newsletter at http://www.assistancedogweek.org/about/.

Tell us how your assistance dog helped you to get and/or keep your job. Send in photos of you and your assistance dog at work. You can send your stories and photos to workinglikedogs@gmail.com.

Gravel or artificial grass? Tell the FAA what you think service animal relief areas at airports should be like.

Service dog animal relief area logo

Do you travel by air with your assistance dog? Would you like to have some say in what the animal relief areas at airports will be like?

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is asking for input from service animal partners, and organizations about the issues related to service animal relief areas at airports.

Standards are being developed for relief areas for airports to follow. The standardization would include signing, and guidance for people with vision impairments.

A proposed rule was published in 2011 that would require relief areas at certain airports. The rule also requires that airports consult with service animal training organization(s) about these areas. Consensus standards are being developed in hopes that the standards would satisfy the requirement for consultation. The FAA believes that by having standards, the development of relief areas will be sped up.

The FAA is also asking about the needs of service animals and their partners. In particular, they would like input on the use of artificial turf, gravel or other materials that could be used for relief areas within secure areas at airports. We understand that it’s tough to grow grass indoors, so it’s great that the FAA is asking us our opinion about what materials would be best to use.

Submit your ideas by commenting on this blog post at the bottom of the page. We’ll send in all of your ideas by the January 2nd deadline

If you want help in finding relief areas at airports, you can use the free Working Like Dogs “Where to Go” app. Find out more and download the free app.

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