Humans may be able to understand dog barks at some point within the next decade, according to new research from scientists at Northern Arizona University.
The idea of humans being able to communicate with dogs has been bounced around in sci-fi movies for many years. However, for the first time in history, it appears that idea could one day become a reality.
Researchers are working on a device that could be used as a pet translator in the near future. That may sound far-fetched, but the technology, if successful, could allow pets and their owners to effectively converse with one another.
The team behind the research plans to use artificial intelligence to learn how to translate both animal vocalizations and facial expressions into something that humans can understand. They studied footage of dogs engaging in a wide range of social behaviors — including growling, barking, and howling — and then used AI to understand how the animals communicate.
That information, combined with advanced machine learning, could be enough to help humans understand what a particular animal gesture really means.
The basis of this study came after scientist Con Slobodchikoff spent 30 years studying North American prairie dogs. He found that the animals have their own language system that conveys complicated instructions and commands. Not only that, but the rodents also use calls that describe the size and coat color of incoming threats.
Slobodchikoff used such information to build a computer algorithm that converted the prairie dog’s vocalizations into English. Since that point, he has expanded his work to include studying the behaviors and barks of dogs.
“If we can do this with prairie dogs, we can certainly do it with dogs and cats,” he said, according to Tech Times
While the technology is still in the early stages, it could one day build more effective communication between animals and humans. Researchers hope to create a device that can translate barks and woofs into English words, but there is still a ways to go before that point.