A pet translator could be available in the next 10 years - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

A pet translator could be available in the next 10 years

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What's the first thing you would do if you had a pet translator and you could understand your dog or cat? I'd probably immediately let my cat know how sorry I am for stepping on her tail all those times.

Recent advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning suggest the dream of communicating with your pets could become a reality.

With the help of AI, scientists are learning how to translate animals' vocalizations and facial expressions into something we can understand. Scientists have already developed AI that interprets marmoset money sounds and AI that learns to spot pain in sheep.

 According to NBC News, a recent Amazon-sponsored report on future trends says in about a decade's time we'll have a translator for pets.

Dr. Con Slobodchikoff is leading the way when it comes to animal communication. Slobodchikoff has studied prairie dogs for more than 30 years and says the rodents have enough calls and noises to represent a language. And with the help of a computer science colleague, he turned those vocalizations into English. Last year, he founded a company called Zoolingua with the goal of developing a similar tool to translate pet sounds, facial expressions and body movements.

"I thought, if we can do this with prairie dogs, we can certainly do it with dogs and cats," Slobodchikoff told NBC News.

Right now Dr. Slobodchikoff is gathering together thousands of videos of dogs showing various barks and body movements, which he'll use to teach an AI algorithm about communication signals. Slobodchikoff aims to incorporate scientific research to decipher the true meanings of dogs' behavior. Then those barks could be translated into English words, so Fido could tell you, "I want to go for a walk."

Scientists say that even if the AI translator becomes a reality, there's still a long way to go before we can have conversations with pets. But researchers say the technology to better communicate with your dog or cat is on the horizon.

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