London: UK scientists are designing computers that can be used by dogs so they can play, operate household appliances and even communicate with their owners.
Researchers at the Open University are working with several dog charities to train the animals and build `smart kennels` that will have computers installed inside.
For animals needing to raise the alarm, for example, they would have a device that allowed them to summon the emergency services at the push of a button, The Telegraph reported.
Dr Clara Mancini, head of the animal-computer interaction team at Open University, said the project was aimed at helping the disabled in their homes by making it easier for dogs to perform tasks for their owners such as turning on lights, switching on washing machines and answering the phone.
She said, however, that she hoped the technology would also provide humans with a new way of interacting and communicating with their pets.
"We are trying to develop something analogous to human computer interaction for animals. It is about giving them more control and getting them to do things better," she said.
"Alert dogs for example are already used to summon help if their owner gets into difficulty, but we are trying to make it easier for them.
"It is possible that we can invent a computer system that allows animals, if not to send emails, but understand they can engage in conversation with a human on the other side of an internet link," she said.
Mancini and her colleagues have been working with Dogs for Disabled to begin designing new computer systems and training dogs to use them.
Unlike humans, who have learned to use keyboards and mice to control computers, the scientists are trying to find solutions that are easier for animals to understand.
This includes using large bright buttons and touch screen technology. Objects that can be picked up and pulled, or shaken are also featuring.
The team is also working on computer based toys and games for animals to help them learn how to use the devices.