Futuristic training for Leamington's Guide Dogs - The Leamington Observer

Futuristic training for Leamington's Guide Dogs

Leamington Editorial 27th Apr, 2024   0

FUTURE guide dogs in Leamington have been undergoing some futuristic training.

Sight loss charity Guide Dogs has teamed up autonomous delivery services provider Starship Technologies to make sure its trainee guide dogs know what to do when they encounter a delivery robot on the streets.

The charity reached out to Starship, after several guide dog owners raised concerns that their dogs were apprehensive when walking near the delivery bots.

The company has since donated a robot shell to the charity’s regional centre in Leamington for use in dog training sessions.

The hope is that by familiarising the dogs with the robot shell, they will become used to delivery bots, and be able to confidently guide their owner past one, if they come across one on the streets.

Guide Dogs spokesperson Jessica Luke said: “Autonomous delivery robots are becoming more common on our streets and they are something that most of our working guide dogs may not have come across during their training.

“It’s important that companies developing new technology understand the impact on people with disabilities and work with organisations, like ours, to gain valuable feedback.

“Starship Technologies has kindly donated a robot shell to our Midlands Regional Centre in Leamington so we can familiarise our guide dogs in training and help them adapt to the changing world around them.

“The company has also agreed to support individual training sessions for working guide dogs who are reacting to robots they meet on the streets near them.

“We’d like to say a big thank you to Starship for supporting us and helping our dogs learn more about how to work alongside robots.”

Starship spokesperson Ryan Holroyd-Case added: “Over the years we’ve conducted testing with guide dogs to observe their reactions.

“We’ve found many dogs work very well around our robots without distraction, but some need a little more support.

“Today this partnership is an extra step to deepen our understanding of guide dogs and to help guide dogs become familiar with robots.”

The charity has already carried out its first training session with the bot shell, introducing trainee guide dogs Garla, Griffin and Vinny to the device.

A guide dog begins its formal training at around 12 to 14 months old and, in normal circumstances, most dogs qualify as working guide dogs around the age of two.


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