In 10 Years, We Might Just Have A Pet-To-Human Language Translator

Understanding our pets in our own language is much closer than we think!

By Justyne Yuen-Lee


Credit: Twitter / @DisneyPixar

If you’ve ever seen the Pixar movie Up, then you might remember when Carl and Russell bump into Dug. To their surprise, Dug was fitted with a collar that allowed his thoughts to be translated into several different languages! Even though it was a concept in a movie, this could be our reality in the next ten years, according to a report sponsored by Amazon, The Next Big Thing.

Who’s behind this project?


Instead of guessing what’s wrong with Lassie, Dr. Con Slobodchikoff, a professor at Northern University, wants to use artificial intelligence, as well as existing and growing scientific research, to decipher what animal facial expressions and barks mean.


The North American rodent makes high pitched calls in the presence of a predator.

Slobodchikoff has studied Prairie Dogs for over thirty years and he is convinced that the rodents’ vocalizations are comparable to what we think of as a language. Prairie Dogs have different calls to warn each other about approaching predators and Slobodchikoff discovered that the calls differ according to the type and size of the predator.


Using this research, he worked with a computer scientist colleague to develop an algorithm to turn the vocalizations into English. He then founded Zoolingua, an organization that is dedicated to developing tech for animal-human communication, to create an artificial intelligence tool for translating dog sounds, facial expressions, and body language into something that we can understand. His ultimate goal: a device that translates woofs into English.

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