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Old 01-15-2008, 09:04 PM
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Default Computer communicates with dogs

How neat!

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Computer communicates with dogs

By Roger Highfield, Science Editor
Last Updated: 12:01am GMT 16/01/2008

Whether a dog is barking at a ball, or wants to play, can be now be discerned by a new computer program with greater accuracy than owners of the pets.

The software has learned the nuances of woofs, howls, yaps, snarls and growls in various situations and is now able to classify dog barks with reasonable accuracy, along with the identity of the animals themselves.

Computer programs now appear to be the most precise tool on offer to study how animals communicate, conclude Csaba Molnár from Eötvös Loránd University in Hungary and his research team, who describe tests of the new software in the journal Animal Cognition.
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The software analysed more than 6,000 barks from 14 Hungarian sheepdogs - Mudi breed - in six different situations: 'stranger', 'fight', 'walk', 'alone', 'ball' and 'play' to learn the nuances of dog language.

When presented with novel barks, the software correctly classified them in 43 percent of cases. The best recognition rates were achieved for 'fight' and 'stranger' barks, and the poorest rate was achieved when categorizing 'play' barks.

Computers offer a way to tell what a pooch is really trying to tell us. "Since we have no reasons to say that Mudis are special among other dog breeds I am pretty sure that this method for categorizing barks could work in other dog breeds' barks as well," Dr Molnár tells The Daily Telegraph.

When it came to distinguishing the yelps and woofs of different dogs, the software correctly classified the barks in 52 percent of cases, which suggests that there are individual differences in barks of dogs even though humans are not able to recognise them.

Despite the claims of owners to be able to distinguish the bark of their beloved pets, earlier work by the Hungarian team showed this is a task that even Dr Doolittle would find challenging.

He believes that the sofware could help owners and dog trainers. "If we could find the acoustic characteristics of barks which reflect to certain emotional states of dogs we could gain information about the dogs' "well-being" which would have several applications on the animal welfare field.

Other application could be a computer which "understands" the dogs' barks, so the dog could operate it with voice. With such a computer the dog could communicate with owners as well, for example alert them when a stranger has turned up."

The team now plans to compare the way different dogs communicate, comparing barks of different breeds such as sheepdogs, hunting dogs, toy dogs and so on, to find out what characteristic of bark were favoured as they were domesticated from wolves over thousands of years.

The speech of owners could be categorised in the same way, revealing the emotional colour to human speech, Dr Molnár adds.
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Old 01-16-2008, 02:37 PM
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This is interesting, but dogs communicate a lot more with body language. I can already tell what my dogs mean when they bark without the aid of sophisticated machinery.
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Old 01-16-2008, 06:21 PM
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good point
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