Human-centric AI news and analysis

These AIs think they can translate your dog’s barks

A growing list of companies are using AI to work out how pets feel

We’re all suffering under lockdown — even our dogs. Although most can still enjoy regular walkies, the pooches are picking up on the reduced social interaction outside. And many of them are missing their friends from puppy school and playdates.

If you’re worried about what’s going on inside your dog‘s mind, a new AI system will tell you — just by listening to it bark.

The feature will soon be added to Furbo, an “interactive smart dog camera” that lets you have a video chat with your mutt, toss it treats, and get alerts when it barks. We’ve reviewed earlier versions of Furbo in the past, but the woof interpreter is a new addition to the product.

The AI identifies different types of barking to pick up signs of unusual behavior. It was built by feeding an algorithm thousands of 10-second video clips captured by the camera. Users then gave their feedback to refine the analysis.

[Read: The science behind why your pet can’t spread COVID-19]

“That’s sort of why dogs were hired in the first place, to alert you of danger,” Andrew Bleiman, the North America general manager of the company behind Furbo, told The New York Times.

“So we can tell you not only is your dog barking, but also if your dog is howling or whining or frantically barking, and send you basically a real emergency alert.”

Furbo is one of a growing range of companies using AI to reveal the inner workings of the canine mind. Reporter Katie Robertson has been investigating what they’re up to.

She discovered that most are using AI to reassure absent owners that their pets are doing ok. But in the future, they’re going to shift the focus from the human’s wellbeing to the pet’s.

The whole piece is a good read for any dog lovers out there. And if you’re more of a cat person, some of the companies are using AI to take care of them too. Find the story here on NYT.

Published April 9, 2020 — 14:30 UTC

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