The Canine Augmentation Technology (CAT) project is a multidisciplinary research effort centered within the Network-Centric Applied Research Team (N-CART) within the Department of Computer Science at Ryerson University. The primary goal of the project is to improve the performance of trained Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) dogs in finding and facilitating the rescue of live people who are trapped in the rubble of buildings that suffer a structural Collapse. Our goal is to create assistive technology so that others might live.
The project has been evolving rapidly since 2005. At the moment, the project consists of 5 separate subcomponents that are based on the theme of finding trapped people faster in order to save lives. These subcomponents are:
- Canine Augmentation Technology (CAT)
- Canine Remote Deployment System (CRDS)
- Canine Pose (CP)
- Canine Work Apparel (CWA)
- Canine Brain Function (CBF)
- Each subcomponent is described below.
Active participants in the CAT project include The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) through the canine handlers of the Provincial Emergency Response Team (PERT), The Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE), The Ontario Partnership for Innovation (OPIC), Public Safety Canada through CAN-TF3 (Toronto), Toronto Heavy Urban Search and Rescue (HUSAR) and Anvil Technologies.
The potential benefit of the CAT project to Ontarians is clear— our systems will save lives. Our project has already been awarded a government of Ontario Showcase Aware of Excellence and the Diamond Award of Excellence based on project achievement. More recently, we have attracted the attention of Public Safety Canada. We have received pre-commercialization funding from OPIC however we are missing funding for basic research in the subcomponents and require additional pre-commercialization funding to develop our prototypes further to achieve market success. We encourage interest party to contact Dr. Alex Ferworn for further details.
Canine Augmentation Technology (CAT):
CAT is essentially a wireless video, audio, telemetry and sensing system designed to be worn by USAR canines who are searching for survivors of an urban disaster. Often, these canines work alone as their human handlers either cannot physically follow them or have been denied access to the disaster site. The dogs indicate the presence of live humans in rubble by barking. The CAT system allows first responders to see and hear what is going on where the dog is.
Canine Remote Deployment System (CRDS):
The CRDS is a remotely operated release mechanism worn by the dog and triggered by the handler using a wireless handset. When the handler hears the bark indication of the dog, they can release a bag (called the “underdog”) that can contain medical supplies, a radio, food, water or other sensors very close to where the trapped person is located. The technology has been awarded a provisional U.S. Patent.
Canine Pose (CP):
CP allows first responders to know what the dog is actually doing when it finds a trapped person. Through a set of accelerometers, a wireless signaling system, signal analysis and various algorithms the position of the dog will be i ndicated to the handler. This is important as the dog’s body position often indicates many things including camera angles for images received from CAT and the presence of human cadavers.
Canine Work Apparel (CWA):
The pet and service animal apparel trade is a multi-billion dollar business in the United States yet none of the available apparel provides a basis for mounting delicate hardware components on a dog. We are prototyping various canine harness designs that fulfill the requirements of providing freedom of movement, comfort and safety for the dog. In addition, the harness must also provide a stable platform for the sensing components of CAT, the release mechanism of the CRDS and any other components that become part of the CAT project.
Canine Brain Function (CBF):
We have found that it is possible to sense what an USAR dog is experiencing by measuring its physiology during the activity. We have started with near-infrared brain spectroscopy to determine the blood oxygenation of the canine brain. We believe this is a fruitful area for further investigation. Many canine handlers believe they will be able to determine the mental state of the USAR canine. This will allow them to determine if the dog is actually working on the problem of finding people. Clearly there are other potential advantages including the ability to differentiate various canine states and apply them to the sensing task. For example, explosive detection dogs will indicate the presence of an explosive but perhaps it is possible to determine what explosive is actually present by measuring their physiological response.