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This Virtual Reality Dog Could Prevent Dog Bites

As players get closer, the dog shows anxiety and aggression through body language.

by Ian Birnbaum
28 August 2018, 2:32am

Image: Virtual Engineering Centre

It's a fact that all dogs are good dogs, but communication between humans and canines isn't always smooth. Dogs bite sometimes—especially when they're scared, hurt, or anxious. In almost all cases, dogs take great pains to warn humans when they're feeling unsafe, but the trouble is that most humans simply don't speak Dog. When misunderstandings happen, it's the human who ends up bitten and, depending on local animal control laws, the dog who ends up dead.

Faced with reports of 6,740 patients admitted to the hospital in 2013, University of Liverpool researchers looked for a way to teach humans how to better understand dog communication. The Virtual Engineering Centre developed Dogs Trust, a VR program that accurately models a nervous dog's breathing, growling, body language, and teeth.

The result is pretty basic right now, but it's still a solid proof of concept: a large Labrador retriever-looking dog stands in the corner of a room, panting nervously. As players get closer, the dog shows other signs of fear and anxiety: licking his lips, yawning, panting harder, and finally growling and snarling.

For people who have never been around dogs, the idea of learning about dog aggression from a real dog with fangs and everything is pretty terrifying. In that context, a safe, interactive version of a dog that lets players calmly examine aggressive body language could save a lot of pain and a lot of doggy lives.

The author's dog wants you to know that she would never, ever bite you *wink*.

This article originally appeared on VICE US.

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