Weekly News Roundup 12/1 – 12/7

How do they Know?

Do you have epilepsy? Do you have a dog? If you have both, you may be able to help researchers at Ghent University in Belgium to find out why some dogs react to epileptic seizures and others don't. Seizure-alert dogs can sense and notify their human companions of an oncoming seizure. The notifying behavior would be anything markedly different from the dog's usual behavior, including close eye contact, circling, pawing or barking, and can occur anywhere from several seconds to 45 minutes before the onset of the seizure. The Epidogs project aims to investigate the underlying mechanisms of this behavior in the hopes of making it possible to train more seizure-alert dogs

But can they slobber all over you?

The worldwide market for robot pet toys is expected to grow 65% by 2021. Manufacturers of robot pets say people who want to keep a dog but can’t afford to maintain a live one prefer robotic pet dogs as a companion, and cite two main advantages over real pets—they don’t need grooming, and there’s no mess to clean up. As you might expect, robot dogs dominate the market. Like Zoomer, an interactive puppy with multiple sensors that allow it to act like a live pet. Robot cats are less popular, because even with multiple sensors, they mostly just lie there. Kind of like real cats, come to think of it.

Motion capture to help real actors play animated dogs

Scientists at the University of Bath in England are developing a new technique to help actors playing dogs in animated movies do it more realistically, and they’re using real dogs like poodles and basset hounds to do it. The dogs taking part in the research wear coats fitted with reflective markers, which have infrared light bounced off of them. The light is scanned by special cameras, which records their position in three dimensions and allows the animal's movement to be reconstructed on a computer screen. The scientists hope to improve current motion capture technology - the technique made famous by actor Andy Serkis in the “Lord of the Rings” and “Planet of the Apes” - where actors are filmed wearing special suits marked with motion trackers and face scanners.

The abominable . . . dogman?

New genetic research suggests that yeti, a large hairy creature that walks on two feet, may not exist. A team of scientists announced this week that they’ve been studying nine DNA samples said to be taken from Yeti. The samples come from museums and private collections around the world. Sadly for yeti fans, the researchers found that eight of the nine samples actually came from bears. Asian black bears, Himalayan brown bears, and Tibetan brown bears, to be exact. That last remaining sample? Turns out it came from a dog.

NEWStat Advancements & research News Interesting/unusual