No More Head-Scratching: How Do Pet and Baby Translators Redefine Communication?

How Do Pet and Baby Translators Redefine Communication

Do you ever wish to understand your beloved pets and newborn babies? Try out these pet and baby translators!

Taking good care of pets and babies has always been the perpetual mission of pet owners and parents. Meanwhile, except for “animal communicators” who can interpret what animals are thinking, none of us seem to have the superpower to precisely understand the needs of our pets. As for babies, most of them won’t start “talking” before they are one year old. Even when they begin to babble, parents can still have a hard time decoding their “words”.

Pet languages and baby words may sound completely confusing, and it’s normal to feel lost when trying to understand your beloved little ones and your best furry friends. Luckily, technology is here to help. Let’s look at some pet and baby translators that will enable you to decrypt those sounds like a pro!

Pet translators

Takara’s Bowlingual

Japanese toy company Takara is capable of more than designing toys—it dropped a dog translator called Bowlingual for dog parents two decades ago. First sold in Japan in September 2002, Bowlingual can translate dog barks by analyzing their voiceprints (a set of distinct vocal traits of an individual, or dog in this case).

Bowlingual is a two-piece gadget that comes with a handheld device and a microphone (or transmitter). The latter is attached to the dog’s collar, which picks up dog barks and sends them back to the handheld device for analysis. Once received, the device will compare the data against around 200 translation patterns in its database and produce the translation. Owners can see the translation from the handheld device’s liquid crystal display alongside a cartoon face that reveals a dog’s emotions.

Amazon’s Alexa cat pet translator apps

Moving on to cat translators. Did you know that you can install apps on the Amazon-owned virtual assistant Alexa to decipher a cat’s meows by analyzing their acoustics and vocalization? If you own an Alexa and want to understand your cats without spending money on translation devices, you can go on Amazon’s website and look for pet translator applications. Simply type in keywords, like “dog translators” or “cat translators”, you will get many options of pet translators that you can enable for free on Alexa (e.g. Pet Translator by My Talking Pet and My Pet Cat).

Google Translate for Animals

All of us are familiar with Google Translate, the powerful translation tool that allows users to translate up to 133 languages. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Google also has an animal version of the application—Google Translate for Animals. Unlike the translators mentioned above, Google Translate for Animals does more than translate a dog’s barks and a cat’s meows. It also supports birds, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, tortoises, horses, chickens, sheep, donkeys and pigs. To understand a chirp or squeak, all you need to do is record the animals’ sounds and wait for the system to process and transcribe the speech data for you.

Google Translate for Animals may appear to be a hilarious idea, but it is definitely tempting. After all, there has not been such a powerful animal translation tool on the market so far. Surprisingly, although this came out as an April Fools’ joke Google UK made in 2010, it is actually available on Android phones and is capable of gauging what the pet intends to say by comparing it with the sounds stored in its Animal Linguistic Database.

Baby translators

Crying seems to be the only way in which babies can express themselves before they can talk. But it takes many trial and error to figure out if your newborn is feeling too hot, hungry or sleepy. Fret no more, perhaps the following inventions can come to your rescue.

MacArenoSoft’s cry translator app

Similar to the pet translator apps on Alexa, MacArenoSoft’s cry translator is a mobile application that users install on their phones. The app categorizes infants’ cries according to five major states, which are hunger, sleep, discomfort, stress and boredom, and it can yield a result in less than five seconds. 

ChatterBaby’s algorithm

Unlike other translators on the list, ChatterBaby’s algorithm does more than translate a baby’s cries. It predicts why a baby is crying with over 90% accuracy using artificial intelligence (AI), signal processing (an engineering technology that extracts and interprets speech information from verbal signals) and machine learning algorithms.

These technologies  analyze the acoustic features of a baby’s cries and match them with their needs. For example, the company finds out that when babies are in pain, their cries will be more powerful and much louder. Therefore, when the algorithms detect high-energy cries, they can alert parents so that they can comfort their babies immediately.

The company collects infants’ cries of all sorts from parents to build its database, which includes, for instance, babies’ cries when they are receiving vaccines, getting their ears pierced, suffering from colic and feeling anxious due to separation from parents. This data is then labeled and used to train the algorithm.

When users upload their babies’ cries through the ChatterBaby app, the algorithm will compare them with the cries stored in the database and identify the baby’s needs. The company is currently collecting cries from parents on the website, and the database is expected to expand in the future.

Zoundream’s BabyT

Like ChatterBaby’s algorithm, Zoundream’s BabyT device also uses AI and a database of cries. “Every time a baby cries, they are asking for something,” notes Zoundream CEO Roberto Iannone. The company collected and added thousands of hours of babies’ cries into their database, which allows the device to quickly match the cries in the database and suggest the reasons behind each of them (e.g. hunger, pain, gas and the desire for a hug).

The ideas of pet, baby translators are truly fascinating and are a window into what modern technology is capable of. Coupled with the pandemic, these translators remind us how much we crave communication—not only with other humans but also with living things who don’t talk in our languages. Although one might doubt the effectiveness of these inventions, with the advent of technologies, like AI and machine learning, the day that we can completely understand our babies and pets will come in the not too distant future. 

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Header image courtesy of Freepik

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