Humans may soon be able to communicate with animals. We may be very close to being able to understand what our pets are trying to communicate using pet translators, with researchers busy at work on a device which can be used to translate the language of pets for us in the near future.
Understanding the language of animals using AI
Scientists are busy in making use of artificial intelligence in order to translate the facial expressions and vocalizations of animals into forms that can be accessed by human understanding.
Con Slobodchikoff, an expert on animal behavior, is one such researcher, his work on the cusp of a breakthrough, a breakthrough that could allow pets and owners to converse effectively using a pet translator. This device is expected to be ready in less than ten years. (source: https://www.nbcnews.com/mach/science/dogs-can-t-speak-human-here-s-tech-could-change-ncna836811 )
Slobodchikoff, who belongs to the Northern Arizona University, has devoted his time to studying footage involving dogs engaging in a wide range of behaviors, such as howling, barking and growling. He has used AI in order to understand how it is that these animals engage in communication. His hopes are that, aided by machine learning, computers can be used to aid humans in understanding the meanings behind certain gestures that pets make, gestures like growling and tail wagging.
Slobodchikoff has spent 30 years studying prairie dogs in North America, discovering that the animals employ their own system of language, a language that communicates complicated commands and instructions. (source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/12/magazine/can-prairie-dogs-talk.html )
These rodents additionally employ calls alerting their group members of threats that might be incoming. Even more fascinating is that fact that their warning calls contain specific information concerning their predators, information such as the color of its coat and its size.
Slobodchikoff, working in tandem with a computer scientist, has formulated an algorithm that converts the vocalizations of prairie dogs into English. Since then, he has branched out, his work now including the study of the barking and behavior of dogs. He founded Zoolingua in 2017, a company whose aim is to develop a tool similar to what he used for understanding the vocalizations of prairie dogs, a tool that can translate the body movements, sounds and facial expressions of other pets. He thinks that if it is possible to translate the behavior of prairie dogs, it is certainly possible to translate the behaviors of cats and dogs.
Slobodchikoff spends his time studying videos of dogs engaged in different types of barks and body movements, planning to use this footage in order to instruct in AI algorithm how to interpret the signals of communication employed by animals.
This work is, as of now, in the nascent stages of its development. But it is entirely possible that it could achieve major breakthroughs, allowing humans and animals to engage in much richer and effective communication than they currently do, and all this in less than ten years!
His end goal is the creation of a device that humans can use to point at their dogs to have their woofs and barks translated into English.
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