• Alysa Salzberg

More than a chat with your cat: Why it’s important to be able to talk to animals

Talking to animals is a fantasy for many of us. Most of us would love to say "I love you" to our pets and hear them say it back. And who wouldn't want to know why animals do some of the things we find so darn odd?


A recent article postulates that we may be able to talk to animals within a decade, thanks to AI. The article describes a device that’s already attempted to help people understand their dog’s emotions.


Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean you’ll be able to sit down and have a deep conversation with your dog or cat. Animals don’t think like humans, and have a different fundamental notion of communication. For example, dogs and cats rely on signals like ear, tail, and eye movements as much as, if not more than, vocalization. Animals may also see concepts like “love” as closer to something like “trust”.


So, if we won’t be able to share our feelings with animals, what’s the point of trying to make animal communication devices? It turns out that there are a number of practical applications.


For example, pairing AI and a database of elephant vocalizations, researchers were able to identify sounds that communicated danger approaching – in this case, poachers who were in the vicinity.


Another case where AI has helped with animal communication was in a program where the facial expressions of sheep were compiled and used to detect whether one was sick or in pain.


Read on to learn how communicating with animals – even on a limited level – could benefit our furry, feathered, and scaly friends -- and us, too.




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