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Renovating the wheel
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Dogs can be trained to follow a scent from point A to point
B. Dogs also urinate along their trodden path, leaving scents
that other dogs will find. If we construct a grid of pathways,
with trained dogs receiving commands from centrally
controlled stations at the intersection of each path,
use this trainable scent-leaving/following behavior to create
a new dog-based delivery service. Each station would also
dispense water, food and treats to keep the dogs happy and
well-fed. Certain stations would be further elaborated into
delivery hubs, where the dogs would pick up or drop off their
packs, and human labor would take over to deliver the
packages to their precise final locations.
So, here is the basic layout of such a system:
The pathways (in theory at least) are laid out in a grid along
the cardinal directions. Each station, then, has paths
leaving in four directions. And each station is controlled by
a central computer that manages traffic on the grid, tracking
the movement of each dog and telling the station in which
direction to send a dog next. Each dog has an RFID tag in its
collar, so it can be uniquely identified upon arrival and
departure from a station.
Two classes of dogs work in this system, scent-leaving dogs
and scent-following delivery dogs. Scent-leaving dogs are
trained to follow a single path for the duration of their
assignment -- always walking back and forth between a set
pair of stations on the grid. Their natural urine-marking
behavior distinctly marks an assigned path with a scent
which the delivery dogs will follow.
The KEY to this system is the way in which the stations
manage the dogs and the scented pathways. Because there
are four distinct paths leaving from each station, the station
must manage four distinct scents to mark those paths. It
does this using non-toxic scent-marker chemicals that are
given to the scent-marker dogs in their water bowls.
Uniquely identifying each arriving dog by their RFID dog tag,
the station knows which path the dog is assigned and gives it
water laced with that path's scent. That laced water is
converted to urine which the dog dutifully, and naturally,
uses to mark his assigned path. The delivery dogs are given
normal, un-laced water.
When a delivery dog completes an assigned path from one
station to the next, he is rewarded with food and water. The
station then communicates with the central control
computer, alerting it to the dog's arrival and requesting the
direction in which the dog should be sent next. The central
computer recalculates the dog's route -- taking into
consideration any new obstacles between his current point
and ultimate destination -- and responds to the station with
the next direction in which the dog should be sent. The
station then emits an appropriate scent from an aerosol
canister, which the dog has been trained to know is his next
assigned route. He sniffs the ground, picks up the scent
(left by a scent-leaving dog) and off he goes. At each
subsequent station, the dog is fed, watered, and his next
direction issued by the central computer; and so on, until he
arrives at his final destination station.
Despite all the moving parts, it's a pretty simple system. As
long as only four routes emerge from any given station, only
four types of scent are needed to supply the entire network.
North-south routes alternate between scent A and B at each
station, and east-west routes alternate between scent types
C and D. The central computer tracks dog movement along
such a grid, and can dynamically recalculate dog routes at
any time to avoid bad weather, malfunctioning stations, or
overturned trucks of cats. The system for rearing and
training dogs will be an added complexity, but one providing
fun and rewarding jobs to displaced postal workers.
Maybe you can integrate some elements of this idea
[normzone, Nov 16 2011]
Each trainer/friend can check up on their dogs via this interface. [swimswim, Nov 18 2011]
||That's a good point. I thought about writing a section about how all loads would be broken down to smaller "packets" of dog-carryable size, but the description seemed to be getting long enough anyway. I suppose another option would be to have cart-pulling horses that are trained to follow the dogs.
||// Where this kind of system might be useful, however, is
developing nations where many villages and towns are
isolated without decent roads connecting them to any
major hubs. //
||Where such practices are already in use and have been for
thousands of years. Also, there are Australian cattle dogs,
which operate in small packs to drive hundreds of head of
cattle across wide tracts of the outback without any human
supervision. They frequently carry messages and small
parcels along with them.
||[Alterother], the big difference is in the cases you
describe, the dogs could basically go between an
established point A and point B -- on which an individual
dog must know the route before setting out -- whereas
the idea here is that the dogs are run along a
established route. This is why the computer-controlled
network aspect is important, something that certainly
hasn't existed for thousands of years.
||//third world countries often hunted for meat//
||Sorry, but a lot of countries also eat dog, so unscrupulous Person A sends a message to themselves and gets a cheap meal.
||As an upside to the idea, with GPS and some access to traffic cameras, you could actually get the dog to cross a road when there is no traffic.
||Sorry, I guess I didn't get that the network control would
be part of the third-world service, too. This practice
already being used in such places gives you a leg up, so to
speak; the infrastructure is already there, waiting for you
to come in and update it. Dogs accustomed to doing
something a certain way often adapt quite readily to doing
the same thing in a different way.
||This will help from a legal standpoint, as interferring with a dog that is wearing livery would clearly be a breach of commercial law. They will, however, require additional registration under the Road Traffic Act; hence the de-livery service could be seen as tax evasion.
||I like it. (I especially liked the poignant passage describing the overturned truck full of cats) [+]
||//non-toxic scent-marker chemicals that are given to the scent-marker dogs in their water bowls//
||Is this really necessary? I would have thought that dogs would be capable of identifying other individual dogs from the unique scent of their urine, without having to add anything else.