Ever wish you could just understand what your dog was saying? Well, you may be in luck, sort of. New technology is attempting to decipher dogs communication and translate it into words. This universal translator for dog language takes your dogs barks and noises and produces words for what they might mean. The effectiveness of this translator is unknown and most likely not very reliable. If you’re interested in this translator, read more in the article below.
A Universal Translator for Dog Language
A colleague of mine recently came by to ask me a question. He had just returned from a short professional visit to Israel. According to him, the facility he visited had a security system which included guard dogs as well as human personnel; however, the dogs were connected to a computer which supposedly translated the sounds that the dogs made so that the human guards could determine the level of threat, and perhaps even the nature of the threat that they were observing. My colleague wanted to know whether our knowledge of canine language had advanced to the state that we now had an electronic translator which could interpret what our dogs were trying to say.
I told him that a number of years ago I became interested in the possibility of using computers to interpret canine communication. I suspected that the situation that he was referring to might have links to the research and applications that I had reviewed at that
Using dogs as guards is nothing
Zehavi’s research lab used computers to analyze 350 different dog barks and his summary of their findings is that “Dogs have a specific bark when someone threatens their space. It doesn’t matter what breed of dog they are, how big or small, or what sex, all that matters is that they bark in response to a threatening situation. An alarm bark is always the same.”
On the basis of this search, Bio-Sense Technologies created the DBS, which stands for Dog Bio-Security System and can be integrated into existing security systems. The “language” input is from a sensor mounted on the dog’s collar that conveys the information to a receiver where a human guard may be monitoring a number of dogs. The data is filtered and passed through an analytical process to determine the state of the dog. This can include additional channels of information, such as the dog’s heart rate, in order to make
Although Dog Bio-Security Systems can cost many thousands of dollars, it is typically still only one quarter the cost of video surveillance systems. At the time that I looked into this system, it had already been found to be sufficiently accurate and sensitive to do the kind of security work required. Information from the company and media reports showed that it was being used in Israel’s high-security Eshel Prison as well as some Israeli military bases, research laboratories, and water installations, as well as smaller installations for farms, ranches, and garages, and apparently it had also been installed in some of the Jewish settlements on the West Bank.
When I learned about this use of computers to interpret canine communication, I spoke to a colleague of mine in the linguistics department at my university. During the course of our conversation, he mentioned to me that a former student of his was working on an electronic translation system that was much more grand and elaborate. It was supposed to ultimately be the equivalent of the “universal translators” depicted in many science fiction shows like Star Trek—namely, a computer-based device to translate communications from any language, even if you could not recognize which language the message was in. The theory behind the research is that in all human language systems, the sounds that indicate emotions have certain similarities, and the sounds associated with certain people, events and things have notable commonalities. For example, the word for “mother” in many languages has a prominent “m” sound, as in the French Mere; Italian Madre; Serbian Majka; Dutch Moeder; Estonian Ema; Russian Mat; Greek Mana; Hindi Maji; Hawaiian Makuahine; Urdu Ammee; and Swahili Mzazi.
My colleague then mused: “Since all animals use much the same variations in sound quality in their communication, I wonder what would happen if a sample of dog sounds was put into the translator?”
I got in touch with the researcher who was working in a governmentresearch facility in Bethesda, Maryland. The idea of trying to translate the language of dogs intrigued him. He added some cautionary notes, however.
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