A virtual scratch behind the ears
André Trudel plans to play fetch with his dog Twist no matter where he is in the world.
Trudel, a computer expert at Acadia University in Wolfville, N.S., is developing a program so that he can play with his dog from any computer with internet access.
"People travel for business, for pleasure, and when you're away from home you're worried about your dog," he said. "You can make sure the dog is healthy and happy."
With the help of his assistant Fung Hu, who is studying for her master's degree, Trudel has set up a ball launcher with a webcam. A dog dish filled with treats sits nearby.
In another room, Trudel sits at his computer and clicks a button that launches a ball. He watches as Twist sprints after it.
Right now the computer and the ball thrower are only a few feet apart, and there are a few bugs to work out. For example, Twist doesn't recognize his master's voice coming out of the speakers.
"We have to get a better digital recording of my voice and probably better speakers," Trudel said.
But once the software is polished, Trudel will be able to play with Twist even if they're thousands of miles apart.
The project has other applications, he said, like allowing people with disabilities to interact in new ways with their pets.