2019-2020 Project

Digital Dog

  • Location:

    Gladstone, Queensland, Australia.

  • GPS Coordinates:
  • Genre:

    Human and non-human digital art

  • Mediums:

    Digital software & hardware hacks, video, photography, drawing and whatever else I can get my hands on.

Line drawings of the artist at work

Ruby's wellbeing is paramount during our eyetracking project!

Project details...

Canines have co-existed with humans for tens of thousands of years. This partnership and close living arrangement has fostered a mutual benefit for both species. With the recent advent of digital technology has our best friend continued to evolve and is beginning to jump the digital divide with us?

Ruby, a 6 year old Border Collie X 'assistance dog' has been with me on a 24/7 basis, being continually exposed to digital visual culture since birth. Has this close co-habitation allowed Ruby to develop skills that help her participate in the digital world? I'm convinced of this when Rubes nudges me to go watch what she is watching on her own laptop!

Ruby has been known to binge watch Youtube for 12 hours+ streaming continuous video or if she knows the recipient she can also actively participate in video calls to family and friends. Her favorite TV program? She is a Games of Thrones fanatic and will come running when it is on. What has all this got to do with art? Read on if you like the technical stuff as there has been little scientific research or conceptual art conducted through the eyes of a canine!



Obligatory symbionts. 2019. Homo sapien and Canis familiaris 

A photgraph of No. 5 kiln at Kandos Cement Works

Prototype 01 - The first set of eyetrackers before dog-ergonomics

Line drawings of the artist at work

Because Rubes is a trooper and is a big fan of the digital world she has no issues engaging with digital media. 

A digital life through the eyes of a familiar

Digital Dog Project Outline

Primary Goals:

  1. Because both Ruby and I use visual communication instead of human language this project requires a visual arts strategy.
  2. My primary goal is to better understand Ruby as a thinking and sentient being in her own right.
  3. To break down cultural, social and governmental barriers that unintentionally disrupt our movements and emotional wellbeing while going about our day to day lives.
  4. The end game is to hold an exhibition that explores the everyday life of a service dog and an artist in cohabitational space. I will be relying on art activism instead of words to bring human-animal relations to the masses. Who knows we may even well fit in a PhD on assistance dogs while we're at it!


  1. Recent Animal-Computer Interaction (ACI) and Dog-Computer Interaction (DCI) welfare protocols have been noted and are paramount for Ruby's wellbeing during this project. (Aspling et al, 2015) (Väätäjä, 2014)
  2. Can a 'layman' access available information either academically or online to design, hack and implement Open Source technology that produces a quality fine art outcome?

First Things First:

  1. Is it even possible to hack human eye tracking glasses to accommodate a canines pupil algorithm? Yes!
  2. Using Open Software and hardware hacks create HD canine and human purpose built eye tracking glasses for under $1000. Done!
  3. Create a hybrid 3D printed headset that is both human and canine interchangable. Done!
  4. Develop a simple calibration routine that is specifically geared towards Ruby's fixation abilities. Done!
  5. Next phase is to test HD world camera types so that high quality video can be used in a digital art project. (working on this)
  6. Experiment with applications like 'Matlab' with Open Source toolboxes and plugins to visualise the data to an exhibition like standard (Berger et al., 2012) (working on this)
  7. Consider my options in how I am to document Ruby's cognitive environment ie mouse control, heatmaps, polylines, video of eye and world cam while navigating the built environment. (thinking about and working through this)
  8. Condense the hardware to go from tablet attachment to a more mobile friendly setup. (Done)
  9. Test mobile setup using cloud data storage. (Working on it!)

Designed by Pupil Labs - customisable 3D printed and used with open source Pupil Capture Software.(Kassner, Moritz ,  Patera, William & Bulling, Andreas. 2014) (Kassner and Patera, 2012) How can this be hacked to accommodate a canines pupil algorithm and facial contours?  After all everything is just numbers right?

Prototype 02 - World vision camera as well as eye tracking capabilities fixed onto 3D printed headset. (Kassner, Moritz , Patera, William & Bulling, Andreas. 2014) (Kassner and Patera, 2012)

Co-habitational Drawings

"After tens of thousands of years in co-habitation and with the recent advent of digital technology, has our best friend also begun to jump the digital divide?"

Work in progress

Prototype 02 - 3D printed headset with world cam and infrared camera - no interuption or discomfort to her eye viewing level - fitting option right hand view

Canine pupil detection: Dog-ergonimic headset with eyetracker working on Ruby using Pupil Labs Capture software. (click image for video)

Prototype 02 - 3D printed headset with world cam and infrared camera - no interuption or discomfort to her eye viewing level - fitting option left hand view

Ruby tracking and engaged with artwork at The Gladstone Art Gallery 2019: 3D printed headset, world camera and infrared eye tracker attached to android smartphone - I mentioned at the start Rubes was a trooper and has developed amazing co-habitational cognitive abilities. We are mobile and going where no canine and human have ever gone before.


Aspling, Fredrik & Juhlin, Oskar & Chiodo, Elisa. 2015. Smelling, pulling, and looking: unpacking similarities and differences in dog and human city life. Proceedings of the 12th International Conference on Advances in Computer Entertainment Technology, Association for Computing Machinery (ACM). https://www.researchgate.net/publication/306366027_Smelling_pulling_and_looking_unpacking_similarities_and_differences_in_dog_and_human_city_life

Berger, Christoph. et al., 2012. GazeAlyze, a MATLAB toolbox for the analysis of eye movement data, Behavior Research Methods, Jun;44(2):404-19. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21898158

Kassner, Moritz, Patera William & Bulling, Andreas. 2014. Pupil: an open source platform for pervasive eye tracking and mobile gaze-based interaction. UbiComp '14 Adjunct Proceedings of the 2014 ACM International Joint Conference on Pervasive and Ubiquitous Computing: Adjunct Publication. Seattle, Washington. P. 1151-1160 https://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?doid=2638728.2641695

Kassner, Moritz ,  Patera, William. 2012. Pupil: Constructing the Space of Visual Attention, SMArchS Master Thesis. Cambridge: Massachusetts Institute of Technology. http://hdl.handle.net/1721.1/72626

Väätäjä, H., 2014. Animal welfare as a design goal in technology mediated human- animal interaction - opportunities with haptics. In: Proceedings of the First International Congress on Animal Computer Interaction. https://tutcris.tut.fi/portal/en/publications/animal-welfare-as-a-design-goal-in-technology-mediated-humananimal-interaction(b0159e4b-1624-4159-9cf2-abb35bf91e89)/export.html