One woof for yes, two woofs for no
If you’ve ever found yourself quizzically wondering just what your dog is really thinking when she cocks her head, wags her tail or does that sad-eyes thing then help may well be at hand.
Scientists in Sweden and Finland feel they are close to developing a dog-to-English translator.
The device, called No More Woof, doesn’t turn a dog’s barks, gruffles and howls into understandable English (after all, that would be ridiculous), but claims to analyse animal thought patterns and spell them out in human language using a loudspeaker.
A prototype of the translation service, scheduled for release in April this year, claims to interpret patterns including “I’m tired”, “I’m excited”, “I’m hungry” and “Who are you?” (which would be a worrying question).
However, the device is still a work-in-progress, so don’t expect to see a fully developed version on the mass market anytime soon.
How does it work?
No More Woof is being developed by Scandinavian research lab the Nordic Society of Invention of Discovery (NSID), which had also worked on a rocking chair that charges iPads and a hovering lamp that follows you around your house.
They say No More Woof is the first gadget to translate animal thoughts into human language.
The small handset – see picture above – uses micro-computing technology, electroencephalogram (EEG) readings – the recording of electrical activity along the scalp, and brain computer interface (BCI) software.
Such processes have been used to help us understand more about the human brain so, the NSID reckon, why not apply them to man’s best friend?
Without getting too technical, these tools work to detect specific electrical signals in the brain that define certain feelings, such as tiredness, excitement and curiosity.
And if you have concerns over animal welfare, the NSID is quite clear: “No animals have ever or will ever be harmed in our experiments. No More Woof is a 110% animal-friendly technology.
“To be completely honest, the first version will be quite rudimentary,” the group added.
“But hey, the first computer was pretty crappy too.”
Google has also launched a version of Google Translate for animals. But as you probably guessed, the app, which purports to recognise and transcribes words and phrases that are common to a species, like cats, was an April Fools.
However, the NSID team seem pretty serious about their project, succeeding in generating their $10,000 funding target on crowdfunding site Indiegogo with two months still to go.
They’re keen to stress it’s still a prototype, so time will tell, but it’s certainly an interesting idea. If we can use the technology to map the human brain and apply it to animals, could we be on our way to animal-to-human communication?