A new report from Amazon suggests we may be able to communicate with animals à la Dr Doolittle in as little as ten years’ time thanks to advancing technology.
The report envisions pet translators that will enable us to interpret barks, meows and chirps to fully understand what our pets are really trying to tell us.
Futurologist William Higham of Next Big Thing and co-author of the report spoke to The Guardian about the work being done to make this fantasy a reality.
In particular, he talked about Con Slobodchikoff, professor emeritus at the department of biological sciences at Northern Arizona University, who has been studying the behaviour of prairie dogs for the past 30 years.
Through use of AI software designed to analyse prairie dog calls, Slobodchikoff found the animals to have ‘a sophisticated communication system that has all the aspects of language… They have words for different species of predator and can describe the colour of clothes of a human, or the coat of coyotes or dogs.’
Slobodchikoff believes that other animals possess a similar decipherable language system of their own and has been trying to raise money to develop a translation device for cats and dogs.
However, Slobodchikoff notes that some animals might not have too much to say for themselves:
‘With cats I’m not sure what they’d have to say. A lot of times it might just be “you idiot, just feed me and leave me alone”’.
Higham also noted the huge consumer demand driving the development of a pet translator:
‘Innovative products that succeed are based around a genuine and major consumer needs. The amount of money now spent on pets – they are becoming fur babies to so many people – means there is huge consumer demand for this. Somebody is going to put this together.’