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Aug 21, 2017,  by Allianz Partners Business Insights

Amazon predicts animal translators within 10 years

An Amazon futurist believes that technology will enable us to translate the language of our pets within the next decade...


Who among us has never dreamed of understanding what our cat was meowing or our dog was barking? This dream could become a reality in the very near future if Will Higham is to be believed. Higham is a futurist and an expert in the evolution of communication strategies, and has had a study commissioned by Internet giant Amazon which states that leaps in technology should enable us to interpret the language of our pets in the next ten or so years, using machine translation, as reported by Numerama.


Genuine demand from consumers


The Amazon study is based on genuine demand from consumers. "Innovative products that have success are based on real needs and priorities for the consumer," says Higham. "The money that is being spent nowadays on pets shows that for many people, they have the status of children who just happen to have fur. That proves that there is significant demand from consumers for this type of thing."

Futurist Higham also mentioned the work carried out by Professor Con Slobodchikoff, who teaches biology at Northern Arizona University. This research used recent advances in artificial intelligence to analyse the language of prairie dogs. According to the professor, these dogs have a system of communication that is comparable with a real language on every level, including words to designate different types of predator.


Is there really a canine language?


While the above-mentioned futurist and biologist both seem very confident, other experts are being more cautious. Juliane Kaminski, for example, who is a doctorand in psychology at the University of Portsmouth, is studying the way in which dogs interact with humans. According to her research, their methods of communication cannot be likened to a language from a scientific point of view. "They make rudimentary signals to express what they want and how they feel," is her overview.

It is obviously in Amazon’s interest in terms of marketing to say that automatic human-to-animal translators are just around the corner, in order to create demand among clients who have pets. The world-famous online store already sells an app that claims to decode the meows of our feline friends, namely the "Human-to-Cat Translator" which can be downloaded free of charge on (and is available in 10 languages: Chinese, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish).


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