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Science Tries to Translate Dog Barks to English

Researchers are using artificial intelligence to help uncover the true wants and needs of animals.

Since the beginning of time, dog owners have often wondered what the heck their beloved companions have on their minds. I mean, besides ‘How can this idiot get sucked into yet another episode of Fuller House on Netflix?’

Well, researchers are using artificial intelligence to help uncover the true wants and needs of animals, including dogs, by studying their facial expressions and even their barking.

One professor out of Northern Arizona University has spent thirty years observing the vocalizations and behavior of prairie dogs and saw that they communicated using different pitches to indicate predators of different sizes, types and colors.

Dr. Con Slobodchikoff even went so far as developing an algorithm to translate the high pitched calls of the prairie dogs into English, and believes his work can translate to house dogs and cats. Currently he is poring over thousands of hours of videos of dogs moving and barking, which he’ll then use to help direct the algorithm to detect things like hunger and pain. But eventually Dr. Slobodchikoff  believes the technology won’t need a human to offer these kinds of interpretations, and that controlled experiments will take their place to provide a more accurate translation.

A recent report for NBC News suggests that the technology could provide relief for a growing problem in the animal world where some 3 million cats and dogs are euthanized every year. Since some animals are surrendered due to unsavory behavior traits, a language translator could help determine what is causing an animal to be aggressive, for example, so its owners can respond accordingly. If the dog can indicate that it is scared by being backed into a corner, give it more space, suggests the article.

Other uses for the technology will help farmers and ranchers identify pain levels in animals, a practice that currently lacks reliability.

Other budding tech in the animal world? A professor from Emory University has been training dogs to sit still through brain scans as another way to get some insight into their perspective on the world. Neuroscientist Dr. Gregory Berns says he’s already been able to uncover evidence that dogs don’t just see us as caregivers, they also see us as friends.

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