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VR Interfaces: Inupathy - Neural Interface Dog Mood collar


Overview of Inupathy - Neural Interface Dog Mood collar

Created in 2016-2017 by Japanese biologist Joji Yamaguchi, the Inupathy collar is a smart collar, designed to let you read your dog's mind, quite literally.

It's basically a non-invasive interface between the dog's body and the collar's electronics. It is in effect a glorified heart beat rate monitor. However, therein lies the trick. Our hearts don't beat at a steady rate, and neither does a dog's. Instead the interval between beats changes depending on state of excitement, mood, concentration level et al.

This is known as 'heart rate variability' or HRV. By measuring the HRV of an individual against the base heart rate of that same individual, it is possible to psychologically determine the current mental state of that individual.

In other words, by learning the rhythms of an individual dog's heart and mapping existing models of known causes of heart rate variability, the collar can work out what the dog's current mental mood I, to a high degree of accuracy.

A series of LEDs forming a display across the back of the dog's neck then light up, colour-coordinated to the emotion the dog is currently feeling. It's an empathic connection we usually form with our dogs over time and intimacy, but, lacking as we do a common language with the dog, this natural bond doesn't always get it quite right. Countless dog owners will be able to attest to the times when their dog is trying desperately to tell them something, but what that something is, is anyone's guess.

The inupathy attempts to provide something of a common language – we can't translate from it the dog's exact thoughts, but we can tell mood, and almost instantly tell when mood changes, in response to an offered stimuli – from frustration (no, this isn't what I wanted), to happiness (Yes! You finally get it!) to any of a wide range in between.

Specifically, the collar is able to detect from monitoring the dog's heartrate, the following mental states:

  • Excitement – red LEDs.
  • Calm – blue LEDs.
  • Happiness – a procession of red, white, and purple LEDs chasing each other across the collar display.
  • Concentration – White LEDs.
  • The four mental states are each additionally marked in intensity from 0 to 100 (barely there, to 'drowning out everything else' in the system's internal scale.

The collar does of course require some figuring out still. It's not possible currently, to determine between excitement states – frustration and anger both show up as excitement for example. But, excitement in the collar's case means elevated heart rate from a mood change that is distinct from happy. So if the dog is excited instead of happy, it may not be a positive kind of excitement. The rest is down to the people interacting with the dog to read body language cues, or to check if the dog was happy just before the collar showed excitement – and if it's flicking back and forth between the two states.

Keeping a record of the dog's previous emotional states is actually quite easy. The collar interfaces with an app for your smartphone, and stores data 'in the cloud' (Read: On the device till you access the app on a nearby smartphone to check that dog. Then the collar talks to the phone via a bluetooth connection, and the phone keeps a record of the data on your online account. This allows you to keep a long-term record of your dog's heart rate – and their emotional state.

That leads us on to the collar's secondary function. Not the one it is primarily marketed for, but arguably its most important. It is in essence, a wearable heart monitor that's always attached to your dog. It's basically a home healthcare station for monitoring their vital statistics over time, allowing you the facilities to tell if something's up with their heart, or their overall health.

For example if your dog is getting fatter, that alone may or may not be a cause for concern. But, if paired with the statistics on their real-time heart beat, you can see if their heart is having to work harder to push the blood around (a symptom of clogged arteries perhaps, as opposed to being overweight but still healthy). You can then check the data in the cloud for the past few days, weeks, or months, to see if the heart started to struggle more as they put the weight on.

As such, it provides a very powerful health screening tool that your dog always wears.

The collar itself is really more of a harness than a collar. The collar is adjustable for any size of dog, but the rear of the collar is a solid, hard plastic unit that's designed to rest just on the dog's neck. It has a slight weight to it to keep it centred, and contains a small solid state storage system, batteries, a bluetooth networking system, the LEDs and of course the collar's computer system. With a normal collar keeping the solid part of the collar centred would never work, so the collar is more of a harness than a collar – a second loop wraps around the dog's belly, just behind the forelegs.

This also enables the heart sensor itself, to rest on the chest, against the heart. It's a tiny thing, not even as wide as the collar's fabric, so it is protected within the collar, and communicates via a thin wire threaded through the middle of the lower band, to the hard plastic unit itself – always staying within the very core of the collar. The two collar loops are connected at the back, and the design places the two loops at very different angles, so the collar's not going to slip around, but at the same time isn't putting any uncomfortable pressure on the dog, and has no risk of choking them.

The unit's batteries are rechargeable, and are rated to last between four and eight hours on a charge. The difference being down to dog activity levels, with a more active, moody dog draining the battery much faster than a calm, sedate one. It is a single feedback channel device – meaning it only tracks a single input (heart rate). So, the only time energy is used is when it is tracking the interval between beats, or when it is sending data to a nearby smartphone. As a consequence, an active dog, with a faster average heart rate is going to require much more work tracking and calculating the variance between beats than a sedate one is in the same time frame. Hence why the active dog drains the battery life considerably faster, down to approx 4 hours minimum.

It's also worth noting hat in order to keep costs down, the collar itself and all components within, are 3D printed, with the initial development raised by crowd sourcing. This means individual units can be manufactured pretty much on demand, if required, with no traditional manufacturing overheads.

The developers have promised to release a software development kit (SDK) in the near future, so that custom applications based on the collar's hardware and data generation capabilities can be developed by interested third parties.

Whilst the collar may be suitable for other quadruped mammals (cats, non-domestic canines, other small mammals) please bear in mind, it has been calibrated for the canine heart, and may produce wildly differing results on other animals. For example, it would definitely function if applied to a cow, but the data you would get back, due to the animal's size, habitat, mentality and simple behaviour differences, would render the data nonsensical, without at least, use of a SDK to account for the species difference.

The collar was not designed for bipedal use, and is not recommended for application to small humans. The difference in stance radically alters heart performance, and the item may pose a health risk, due to anatomical differences between human head/limb placement and dog head/limb placement, as well as acknowledging the device was meant to work through a layer of fur, not necessarily direct skin contact. . The HRV system will still work if held against a living human, but again the data will be completely different, and the collar attachment is absolutely not recommended for this use. Basically, if you're planning to use it to biohack yourself, friends, spouse, or dependants, there are better, safer alternatives available. Ones which don't put pressure on the windpipe when worn by bipeds.


Inupathy's Website

Crowdfunding Press Release

Original IndieGoGo crowdfunder (closed)

Further Reading

VWN Dictionary: HRV

VWN Dictionary: Biohacking

VWN Dictionary: Brain Computer Interfaces

VWN Dictionary: Feedback Channel

Further Reading links related to the error potential in biometric systems, of which the collar is one:

A primary reason why the device detects only four general emotional states is due to the nature of detecting false positives/negatives in biometrics, and the more specific the signal you're looking for, the more likely an incorrect match will be made. These links are here to provide a jumping off point to understand why Inupathy only detects four general mood states, when detecting many more from HRV is technically possible.

VWN Dictionary: False Match Rate

VWN Virtual Dictionary: False Reject Rate

VWN Virtual Dictionary: False Non-Match Rate

VWN Virtual Dictionary: False Accept Rate

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