Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Guide Dogs Are Only The Beginning.........

I have been inspired to write today's post by a comment left by my second cousin in response to a previous blog entry.

So if you don't like it, I can supply her contact details for you to send your hate mail to in the format of your choice - letter, e-mail, text, or brick-through-window (uses same address as for letter format).


As part of my sign language course, I have had to do some research on organisations that work with Deaf and Hearing Impaired people. One of the organisations I looked at was "Hearing Dogs for The Deaf", who train dogs to alert their hearing impaired owners to such sounds as the Doorbell, Telephone, Alarm Clock, and Fire Alarm. The dogs are trained to alert their owner to a noise by either nudging them with their nose, or touching them with a paw. The owner then asks the dog "what is it?" - either verbally, or through a specific hand gesture. The dog then leads their owner to the source of the noise. In the event of the noise being the fire alarm however, when the dog is asked "what is it?", it lies down - to indicate danger to the owner.

I think this is a genius thing to happen - just like guide dogs for the blind. Did you know when a blind person with a guide dog wants to cross the road, it is the owner that makes the decision to go, but if the dog doesn't think it is safe to do so, it will not move. Well, that is the general idea anyway. There was a German Shepard called 'Lucky' in Germany (ironically), who had been found to be responsible for the deaths of his previous FOUR owners. Apparently, he walked his first owner out in front of a bus, and his second off the end of a pier. He is alledged to have nudged his third owner off a railway platform, just as the Franfurt to Hamburg express was approaching, and led his fourth owner/victim into busy traffic before abandoning him and running to safety. According to the owner of the Guide Dog training school that supplied 'Lucky', "apart from suffering from epileptic fits, Lucky is a lovely dog with a wonderful temperement - and Guide Dogs are so hard to train these days".

So anyway, all this talk of dogs that help humans got me thinking that it couldn't be that difficult to set up a system where a dog could make someone a cup of tea, could it?

I imagine there would have to be a set of floor pads or pedals which the dog is taught to press. The first issue is how and where to boil the water. There would have to be a set up similar to a toilet cistern, where when you flush the cistern it re-fills with water until the flow is cut off via a floating stop cock which shuts off the water once the correct amount is filled. Combine this with a heating element in the bottom of the water container, and you have the water heating system. So, in the first instance the dog presses the first pedal, which turns on the heating element and heats the water. For safety's sake the first pedal would have a red LED light which would come one when the pedal is pressed and be switched off automatically once the water is boiling.

With me so far? Good.

While the water is boiling, the dog can then select either Tea or Coffee (let's not complicate things here) - again by pressing a pedal embosssed with either the letter "T" or "C". This would be linked to a kind of vending machine set up where you get tea or coffee with the desired amount of sugar (this is all programmed in the initial set up of the system). The dog presses the pedal of choice and either tea or coffee, with or without sugar is dispensed into a cup. Again, a LED light would appear on the pedal that has been pressed to tell the dog that it has made a selection. The next pedal is for Milk (or not - again this is down to the owners preference, and can be set up at installation), and the same method for Tea or Coffee applies.

When the water has boiled, the heating element cuts out, just like in a kettle. At this moment, the red LED on the first pedal goes out, and a blue LED lights up on the next pedal - the pedal after the one for Milk. The dog then presses the pedal with the blue LED which pours the boiling water into the cup - but not directly. The water container rotates on it's base until it's spout is in the correct position. One side of the base lifts up, tilting the container so that exactly the right amount of water pours out of it's spout and into a tiny metal channel (think of a metal tube cut in half horizontally, on legs), which runs across the kitchen work surface - against the wall, to minimise the space it takes up - with a slight downward slope to help water flow. This channel is constructed like Scalextric, so it can go round corners and avoid obstacles. The channel leads directly to the waiting cup. The cup is rotating slowly to enable adequate mixing of water and tea or coffee (which would normally be done by stirring).

The cup rotates for a minute to allow infusion, while the water container lowers back down to it's starting position and re-fills with water. When ready, an audible noise is made to alert the dog - probably a noise similar to the ping of a microwave. When the dog hears the ping it collects the cup from the work surface. Before you ask "how?" - I've thought of that. The cup has a special handle, which can be locked vertically, or at ninety degrees. When at ninety degress, the dog can pick the cup up by the handle and take it to it's owner. The owner then simply unlocks the handle from it's ninety degree position (by holding in a small button on the handle perhaps), and twists it to vertical, where it locks in again, enabling the owner to drink from the cup. When finished, the owner puts the handle back in the ninety degree position, and the dog takes it back to its place on the kitchen side ready to be used again.

I'm looking for a £250, 000 investment in return for a 49% share of the company. Sorry - for a moment there, I thought I was on "Dragons Den".

By the way - no, the cup doesn't get washed up. I figure if you are that disbled that you have to have this elaborate system of  channels and rotating and lifting things, and LED lights and embossed pedals etc. you are not going to be too bothered about how clean your cup is.

It sounds complicated, and yet suprisingly feasible. The technology is avialable to make something like this work. And in terms of training a dog, it's only got to press five pedals! Incidentally, I chose a dog because cats are too independant, and wouldn't see the job through. They might only get as far as selecting Tea or Coffee, before getting bored and going out. Plus I don't know if a cat would have the body weight behind it to press the pedals. It certainly couldn't carry the cup.

So, a dog trained to use a home beverage delivery system. Obviously, you would have to add an extra couple of pedals so that the dog could get its own food and water - otherwise about three days in, you are going to stop getting any Tea or Coffee.

Because the dog would be dead, not because it would be on strike for better working conditions.

And there are other animals you could train to help around the home. You could train small birds and squirrels to hang your washing out. The birds hold each item of clothing up while the squirrel runs along the clothesline attaching the pegs. Once dry, they do it in reverse - the squirrel removes the pegs and the birds take down the clothes and put them in the basket. They wouildn't be able to do any folding however (small wings).

You could train hummingbirds to either A) clean your false teeth, or b) remove earwax from your ears. Their narrow beaks and long tongues make them the perfect choice.

You could get cleaner fish to do your washing up. Just pop your dirty dishes in their tank, and watch them greedily nibble them clean.

That is a far as I got with my "training animals to help humans" idea............but I'm sure there are more that could be found.

If anyone has any suggestions, I'd love to hear them.

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