Cyber Suits to Improve Search Abilities of Rescue Dogs Updated in August 2018

Dogs are close friends to mankind and they are wise animals that can be relied upon in emergencies. In disaster-stricken areas, people could get buried under collapsed houses or landslides. Under such circumstances, rescue dogs can look for such victims through their superior sense of smell.

Even for such smart dogs, there are unanswered issues. For instance, even if a rescue dog goes deep into a narrow gap inside a collapsed house and barks to announce an emergency, the dog handler at the other end cannot know what the dog has actually found: is it a piece of clothing with human smell or an injured person? When there are too many victims, the rescue team needs to know the degree of injuries in order to determine who to save first.

To make the best out of their search abilities, a wrap-around cyber suit for rescue dogs has been developed. It was developed by Associate Professor Kazunori Ohno at Tohoku University Research Center for Science and Technology and was exhibited at the Tokyo Big Sight (Koto Ward, Tokyo), until June 3, as part of the 2018 Tokyo International Fire Disaster Prevention Exhibition.

The cybersuit weighs 1.5 kilograms. In order not to hinder the dogs’ movements, the suit is designed to weigh less than 10% of what medium to large-sized dogs weigh. The suit pocket contains a global positioning satellite system (GNSS), a receiver to identify where the dogs are located, a battery, a recording device, and so on. It also has a camera which always monitors the dog’s front view. The acquired information is sent to the handler and command headquarters real time and can also be verified on a tablet.

According to Ohno, the difficult part in developing this product was to fit everything in the suit snugly without having each device to move around while the dog is wearing it. To counter this challenge, the team sought help from Furuno (Nishinomiya-shi, Hyogo prefecture), a company with experience in creating devices to monitor hunting dogs. The team also got help from the software developer Dawn Corp. (Kobe-shi, Hyogo-prefecture), which helped to ease the display of captured images on tablets.

he Japan Rescue Dog Association (Nakano-ku, Tokyo) put on these cyber suits on certified rescue dogs and had them go through a rubble debris as a test. It was verified that the suit was up to practical standards, explained Ohno. In addition to rescue dogs, it can also be worn by other working dogs like police dogs.

Photo 1: Cyber suits for rescue dogs developed by Ohno’s team (Photo from Tokyo International Fire Disaster Prevention Exhibition 2018)

Photo 2: The camera captures what the dog actually sees in front of him

Photo 3: Tablet displaying the dog's position and what the dog actually sees in front of him