What's the first thing you would do if you had a pet translator and you could understand your dog or cat? Scientists are experimenting with artificial intelligence in order to decode and interpret animal vocalizations such as barks, growls or howls into a language which humans can understand. Dr. Con Slobodchikoff is leading the way when it comes to animal communication. Slobodchikoff has studied prairie dogs for more than 30 years and says the rodents have enough calls and noises to represent a language.
‘Scientists are busy working on a "pet translator" that could finally let owners communicate with their dogs and cats.’Last year, he founded a company called Zoolingua with the goal of developing a similar tool to translate pet sounds, facial expressions and body movements.
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The prairie dogs make high-pitched calls to alert the group to the presence of a predator. Slobodchinoff discovered that those calls vary according to the type of the predator as well as its size. The animals can combine their calls in various ways and can even use them to indicate the color of a nearby human’s clothing.
But Slobodchinoff wasn’t content just to understand prairie dogs. With help from a computer scientist colleague, he developed an algorithm that turns the vocalizations into English.
“I thought, if we can do this with prairie dogs, we can certainly do it with dogs and cats,” Slobodchikoff said. The ultimate goal is to create a gadget that can translate what your dog wants - so "woof woof" becomes "I want to go for a walk".