Could You Be Talking to Animals Soon?

February 7, 2018


With the speed at which technology has been putting new devices in the home, it is not that farfetched that the world will soon join Dr. Doolittle in talking to the animals. Who knows, maybe our pets are just waiting for the chance to tell us what’s on their minds.

Although most pet owners are usually good at figuring out what their dog or cat wants, there are still times where pet owners would love to have a real conversation with their furry friends. That dream may soon be a reality thanks to Dr. Con Slobodchikoff. The Northern Arizona University biology professor  has devoted much of his career to studying the communication among animals (particularly prairie dogs). Although it might seem odd to start with these chirpy critters, it turns out prairie dogs are surprisingly sophisticated in communicating with each other.  

Dr. Slobodchikoff has been using artificial intelligence (AI) to interpret distinct vocalizations used by prairie dogs to signal specific predators. His work has led to the development of an algorithm, which can translate prairie dog barks and chirps into English. As essentially the world’s first interspecies translator, he has learned these lovable creatures can distinguish between predator size and threat level, and are even capable of specifying the colors of people’s clothing. Now, Dr. Slobodchikoff has partnered with Zoolingua, a company developing technology to translate body movements, facial expressions, and sounds of pets into something we can understand.

Zoolingua’s focus for their research has been the dog. After all, dogs have always demonstrated a deep desire to understand human communication.  A translation device might make things easier for people who lack intuition and help those who might misinterpret signals.  Although the dog translation system is still in the early development stage, the goal is to create a device that could be pointed at a pet and then translate into English what the pet wants. What's even cooler is that with further development technology could make this a two-way communication device where what is spoken by a person would be translated into a series of barks.

Amazon is already selling a device that supposedly can transfer human vocal tones into meows for your cat. So, now your cat can tell you that you're even a bigger nerd than they previously thought. Moreover, the question here would be "Should you really trust Alexa to have conversations directly with your pets"?

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