Akvelon, whose motto is “We make BIG software happen”, are developing a computer program using artificial intelligence and machine learning which they claim will be able to translate a domestic cat’s vocalisations (sounds such as meows) for the benefit of their human caretakers. It’s the Holy Grail of the cat-to-human relationship.
We do understand our cat’s sounds!
Thousands of hours have been spent writing about how to understand domestic cats and of course the best cat guardians do understand their cat companions. You understand them through the sounds they make combine with their body language and the rhythms and routines of our lives with them. It’s a learned process from both cat and person. Arguably we don’t need a translator!
But it is interesting nonetheless that some serious and highly skilled computer software engineers have decided to tackle this most ambitious project.
The video is a webinar between techie men, and it’s a long video. I have started it at a point where the manager of the project talks about developing the program. The video is suited to anybody who is interested but more suited to people with computer programming experience! That won’t include many cat owners I expect, to be perfectly frank, but here it is nonetheless…
There are interesting sections for cat owners. Please note that sometimes video such as this one stop working over time for reasons beyond my control and if that has happened I apologise.
The interesting aspect of this is that they have created a smart phone application (“app”) to help translate your cat’s sounds. That’s the big story on the Internet but for me the more interesting story is the thinking behind the app.
I just learned that one of the senior programmers is a former Amazon Alexa engineer. The app is called MeowTalk. It records the sound and then attempts to identify the meaning.
The cat’s human guardian apparently helps to label the translation and thereby create a database for the artificial intelligence software to learn from. There are currently 13 phrases in the app such as, “feed me”. This would be the standard meow, I’m guessing.
As I understand it, combining AI and machine learning, the programme will be able to accurately translate the sounds of the domestic cat. The translation will be relayed to the cat’s owner on their smartphone through a human voice.
It appears that quite a lot of research has gone on into understanding feline vocalisations. Currently scientists believe that cats do not share a language but that each cat’s meow is unique and tailored to each individual cat. I’m not so sure about this, if that is what they think. Domestic cats do have a standard vocabulary of sounds and they do carry certain meanings often in conjunction, as mentioned, with body language. The vocabulary is much more limited than that of humans but it is quite distinct, nonetheless.
Some more on cat sounds