Photo Credit: Virtual Engineering Centre (VEC)
Interactive training project is aiming to help recognize dogs displaying signs of aggression.
A virtual dog could soon be used as an educational tool to help prevent dog bites, thanks to an innovative project led by the University of Liverpool’s Virtual Engineering Centre (VEC).
In collaboration with Dogs Trust and University of Liverpool animal behavior researchers, the VEC has created a proof of concept virtual reality (VR)experience in which people can approach and interact with a dog displaying signs of aggression in a safe and controlled way.
The experience aims to help adults and children recognize specific behaviors displayed by dogs, which could potentially lead to an attack or incident if not correctly identified.
6,740 hospital admissions for dog bites and strikes were recorded in the UK in 2013 and University of Liverpool research suggests that the burden of dog bites is considerably larger than those estimated from hospital records.
As part of a desire to better educate children and adults about dog bite prevention, Dogs Trust wanted to explore whether a digital tool could help people identify a range of stress and threat behaviors typically exhibited by dogs, which have the potential to lead to a bite.
In response to this challenge, a team animal behavioral specialists and psychologists from the University worked closely with the VEC to make certain that the body language and detail shown in the virtual environment was both realistic and a truthful reflection of real-world canine behavior.
As the user approaches the dog, the behavior and body language of the dog gradually changes, the dog’s behavior begins to display signs of aggression including licking its lips, lowering of the head and body, front paw lifting, growling, and showing of teeth. These behaviors are referenced from the ‘Canine Ladder of Aggression’ which shows how a dog may behave when it does not want to be approached.
Iain Cant, VEC Visualization Team Leader said: “This was a really interesting project to work on with a lot of exciting potential for the future.
“The next steps will look to enhance the detail within the immersive environment to ensure the simulation is as realistic as possible. Future developments will also show a wider range of dog behaviors and the dog’s reactions to user behavior.”
“More broadly the project highlights how immersive experiences can be used by organizations such as Dogs Trust as a valuable educational tool.”