Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Animal Behaviorist: We'll Soon Have Devices That Let Us Talk With Our Pets

 We're fast approaching the point, says Con Slobodchikoff, when computers will help to mediate our communications with animals. 

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We all try to talk with animals, but very few of us do so professionally. 

And even fewer are trying to build devices that could allow us to communicate with our pets and farm animals. 

Meet one person who is trying to do just that: Con Slobodchikoffa professor emeritus at Northern Arizona University, and a modern-day Dr. Doolittle. Slobodchikoff is an animal behaviorist and researcher who has devoted his career -- 30 years of it, at any rate -- to the decoding of animal communications. And though Slobodchikoff has studied those signals across different species, he has focused his original research on the communications of the prairie dog. The creatures, he says, talk to each other using "the most sophisticated animal language that has been decoded." The animals have word-like phonemes, combining those into sentence-like calls. They have social chatter. They can distinguish between types of predators that are nearby -- dogs, coyotes, humans -- and seem to have developed warnings that specify the predators' species and size and color.

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