Amazon Claims Pet Translators Will Be Available In Ten Years
Veterinarian Reviewed on July 29, 2017 by Dr. Janice Huntingford, DVM
Posted in Cats
A new report backed by Amazon claims that devices that translate communication from pets could soon become a reality.
According to the Guardian, Northern Arizona University professor Con Slobodchikoff has spent 30 years using artificial intelligence software to study the calls of prairie dogs. He found that the animals, which are technically classified as rodents, used different “words” to describe colors and the names of predators.
Professor Slobodchikoff, who is the author of “Chasing Doctor Dolittle: Learning the Language of Animals,” believes dogs and cats use a similar language system and is now trying to raise money to create a translation device for the two pets.
“So many people would dearly love to talk to their dog or cat or at least find out what they are trying to communicate. A lot of people talk to their dogs and share their innermost secrets. With cats I’m not sure what they’d have to say. A lot of times it might just be ‘you idiot, just feed me and leave me alone,’ “ he told the Guardian.
Consumer futurist William Hingham, who co-authored the report, noted that pet owners are already comfortable spending whatever is necessary to become closer to their pets. With this trend in mind, Hingham predicted that pet translators will be available for purchase in less than ten years.
“Innovative products that succeed are based around a genuine and major consumer needs. The amount of money now spent on pets – they are becoming fur babies to so many people – means there is huge consumer demand for this. Somebody is going to put this together,” he says.
Amazon currently sells a “Human-to-Cat Translator” app that apparently translates English into cat communication via 175 “meow” samples. It comes with a “16-meow soundboard” that plays “common cat calls.”
A brief glance at the reviews, however, shows that for most customers, the app “terrified” their cats and drove them crazy as they tried to figure out where the “meows” were coming from.
Portsmouth University psychologist Juliane Kaminski, who has studied communication between humans and dogs, does not agree with Professor Slobodchikoff’s theory that dogs use a decipherable language.
“We would not describe dogs’ forms of communication as language in the scientific sense,” she told the Guardian. [But] they do give out rudimentary signals of what they want and how they’re feeling.”
These signals include different types of body language that represent positive or negative emotions. A translation device, Kaminski explained, would likely not be able to decipher a right-sided tail wag from a left-sided tail wag.
She suggested that the only people who might benefit from a pet translator are young children, who have been known to misinterpret positive and negative communicative techniques. A study revealed this tendency by showing young children a picture of a snarling dog. The kids reportedly told researchers that they thought the dog was merely “smiling” and in need of a hug. A pet translator might warn them to stay away.
Kaminski also noted that dog communication is heavily based on context, meaning the different sounds stem from different environments or situations. But these sounds aren’t too difficult to misinterpret, she says, even for someone isn’t a pet owner. It seems that in addition to protecting children, the primary use for a pet translator could be allowing people who are mentally incapable of understanding intuition to own a dog.
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Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan