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

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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?

conslobodschikoff.com

Credit: conslobodschikoff.com

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.

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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.

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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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