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Jewish World Review
Jan. 16, 2014 / 15 Shevat, 5774
Almost Here: A Translator For Dogs!
I'm sure most of us have at some point wondered exactly what our canine companions are thinking when they bark. Then the vast majority of us get on with our lives.
Not so the geeks of the Swedish product development firm the Nordic Society for Invention and Discovery. They hunkered down, stretched their brains and used $10,000 of crowdfunded money to develop a rudimentary wearable device called Woof No More.
The device's EEG headset supposedly reads dogs' brainwaves; then a tiny Raspberry Pi computer, translates the thoughts into human language and a built-in speaker utters the words.
A writer for "Popular Science" magazine went to great lengths to show that such claims are "complete, utter bunk" and that - given the current state of neuroscience -- such a device is many years and millions of dollars in the future. But I'm sure that reasonable people will be able to set aside his negativity -- because the concept is just so doggone cool!!!!
The developers warn that Woof No More is a work in progress. The version shipping in April translates just four thought patterns, but they are primal sentiments universal to all dogs: "I'm hungry," "I'm tired," "Who are you?" and "Boy, I'm glad I can think deeper thoughts than Joe Biden!"
As the device grows in sophistication, we can expect to hear dogs express thoughts such as:
"Yeah, I'm afraid of thunder - but at least I'm not afraid to wash myself after they show 'Psycho' on TV!"
"Master, you say one of your co-workers is a brown-noser. I'm not sure why that's an insult..."
"You see muddy pawprints. I see me getting in on the ground floor of biometrics and avoiding identity theft."
"I assure you my interest in the ladies is on a purely intellectual level. Now, for the luvva Marmaduke, put down those surgical instruments!"
One might well ask how the Woof No More could be sold for the pittance of $600. I suspect that, following the example of costly upgrades to free software, we will soon see the "Woof No More Pro," which for an extra sum filters out your pooch's annoying split infinitives, dangling participles and utterances of "like" and "you know" and "Fetchin' hard or hardly fetchin'?"
Even if the device works, many people will be unable to make practical use of the wealth of information they receive. Just look at our track record with human relations. ("I wonder what it means when a woman says, 'No!!'? If only the Swedes would develop some device to cut through the confusion - without electrical interference with my natural irresistibility, of course.")
Some observers say we would be better served by a device that interprets human speech for dogs. I'm sure countless dogs are waiting to hear a human answer the question "You gave a PUPPY to kids with the attention span of a concussion-addled goldfish. What were you THINKING, kibble-for-brains???"
Whether or not the technology is applied to humans, if Woof No More is a hit, we'll inevitably see versions for other species. I can't wait to try out Meow No More. ("This meow means I'm hungry. This meow means I'm going out...in...out...This meow means I'm hatching a Machiavellian world domination plan that could be unraveled only if ...ZZZZZZZZ")
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Controversial author Harlan Ellison once described the work of Mr. Tyree as "wonkily extrapolative" and said his mind "works like a demented cuckoo clock." Tyree generated a particular buzz on the Internet with his column spoofing real-life Christian nudist camps. A lifelong small-town southerner, he graduated from Middle Tennessee State University in 1982 with a bachelor's degree in Mass Communications.
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© 2013, Danny Tyree