Insights August 11, 2020

Going beyond the meow, woof and cluck

Living Word
By Living Word

We’re all about translation and transcreation here at Living Word and love to enable communication between different cultures. There’s one thing we can’t do just yet, however: translate your pet’s thoughts and feelings. But will this change in the future? Let’s find out.

If you have a pet, you’ll know very well how much easier life would be if we could properly understand every need and want of our furry and feathery companions. Until now, this has been nothing more than wishful thinking, but clever technological advances mean that communicating with our pets might be possible in the near future, albeit in a limited sense.

The key to success: AI

Recent advances in AI (artificial intelligence) translation and machine learning suggest that properly communicating with your pet could indeed be a reality very soon. Using AI, scientists and researchers all over the world are currently trying to translate different animal sounds and facial expressions into a language humans can understand.

Some AI systems have already been developed to decipher the communicative calls of marmoset monkeys and dolphin whistles, for example. Others have started to come up with actual devices that could potentially help us to better understand animals. That’s the case at the Japan-based company Inupathy, which invented a harness that monitors a dog’s heart rate and lets its owner know, via an app, whether their pet is relaxed or stressed.

Another famous example is Zoolingua – a company aiming to develop an app able to translate a dog’s body language, facial expressions and sounds into English. For this undertaking, Zoolingua collected thousands of dog videos demonstrating different barks and body movements. These communication cues were then integrated into an AI algorithm. While this project is still in its infancy, the ultimate goal is to create a device that, when it is pointed at a dog, tells users what their pet wants or needs. Pretty useful, right?

While there are many sceptics out there and our understanding of animal languages is still quite limited, the future advancement of AI translation technology and natural language processing is likely to bring about many more complex opportunities.

Why is this important?

Understanding animal language can help not just to strengthen the bond with our pets, but also potentially as a very useful tool in conservation. As an example, researchers used new AI techniques to protect Africa’s elephants by analysing their vocalisations. When they found out which sounds indicated danger, they also knew when poachers were nearby. Farmers could benefit from these technologies too, as they might soon be able to help identify sick animals in a herd in order to provide medical treatment as quickly as possible.

Here at Living Word, we will stick with transcreation services for human-to-human relationships for now, but we can’t help but think that the future looks bright for animal-to-human communication too.