Author Topic: A device that lets dogs speak - "No More Woof"  (Read 4795 times)

Offline Daniel

  • Administrator
  • Experienced Linguist
  • *****
  • Posts: 1581
  • Country: us
    • English
Re: A device that lets dogs speak - "No More Woof"
« Reply #15 on: January 23, 2014, 09:41:57 PM »
Quote from: Cory
It's not 'letting a dog's inner voice out' or anything
Cory and lx, you may have a point. But that's also why this is intriguing, you see. If it's just a button that the dog pushes with its ears (ok, not quite) that then says a word, it's not very interesting. It might be useful, but it doesn't have all of those implications they hint at.

There was a study out of UC Berkeley about vision that is relevant here (actually Freknu mentioned some of that research earlier-- I think it's the same project anyway). They played hundreds of youtube videos to subjects in an fMRI, watching brain activity. Then through statistics on that activity, they found patterns and began to learn what responded to what input. Fine. Then they were able to "see" it just from the brain activity! They actually learned how our brains hold images. But... wait. It's not quite that impressive. They were simply modeling activity and mapping it to similar activity, with very similar stimuli. That is, they didn't ask the subjects to imagine one of their favorite videos. It wasn't reading their mind. It was simply intercepting information being used by the visual neurons. Finally, it was only doing that based on statistical reasoning based on the samples and then blending the original input videos for a best fit approximation of the current input.
In short, while it seems very cool and might go to a next step, these technologies are very far from mind reading in any conscious sense-- they can see activity certainly, though.
Welcome to Linguist Forum! If you have any questions, please ask.

Offline zaba

  • Serious Linguist
  • ****
  • Posts: 272
Re: A device that lets dogs speak - "No More Woof"
« Reply #16 on: January 24, 2014, 02:30:21 AM »
Quote
Finally, it was only doing that based on statistical reasoning based on the samples and then blending the original input videos for a best fit approximation of the current input.

Bingo. That's (one reason) why its gobbledygook.

Offline lx

  • Global Moderator
  • Linguist
  • *****
  • Posts: 164
Re: A device that lets dogs speak - "No More Woof"
« Reply #17 on: January 24, 2014, 02:34:57 AM »
Quote
Finally, it was only doing that based on statistical reasoning based on the samples and then blending the original input videos for a best fit approximation of the current input.

Bingo. That's (one reason) why its gobbledygook.


Daniel is not talking about No More Woof there, he's talking about the UC Berkeley study on humans. You do realise that, don't you?

Offline Daniel

  • Administrator
  • Experienced Linguist
  • *****
  • Posts: 1581
  • Country: us
    • English
Re: A device that lets dogs speak - "No More Woof"
« Reply #18 on: January 24, 2014, 09:47:18 AM »
In a way, it's similar: is this really a first step toward deeper understanding of the (human/canine) mind if it's just surface-level to start? Certainly it could be, but it's not a rough approximation of deep thought currently. It's a rough approximation of surface-level brain activity.

As Cory said, measuring salivation could quite literally also be useful, but it doesn't seem to get very deep into the mind of a dog.
Welcome to Linguist Forum! If you have any questions, please ask.

Offline lx

  • Global Moderator
  • Linguist
  • *****
  • Posts: 164
Re: A device that lets dogs speak - "No More Woof"
« Reply #19 on: January 24, 2014, 09:58:15 AM »
Quote
Certainly it could be, but it's not a rough approximation of deep thought currently. It's a rough approximation of surface-level brain activity.
Are we even comparing the same idea?  :o
You're reading some deep, deep complicated claims into their proposal, that I just can't see anywhere, and then (by that standard) quite rightly throwing those claims out of the window because they don't stand up to modern evidence/reality right now. What I see, is them saying over and over again that it's not a finished product, they're testing, they need resources and their plan is to increase it once they have more research and funding under their belt. Even with a banner along the bottom, "THIS IS NOT A FINISHED PRODUCT," then they say by helping out with the first edition, the main point is not that you get a product that does all this magical stuff, but rather you're allowing them to further the research.

I really think that the whole idea of what they're aiming for in their proposal video has been completely blown out of proportion here. Nowhere do they even get anywhere close to saying anything about translating deep thought. The closest thing is the opening line, which anyone in the real world knows is always a bit of an exaggeration to keep the interest of the viewer. It's their end goal.
Quote
is this really a first step toward deeper understanding of the (human/canine) mind if it's just surface-level to start?
Absolutely! Why would it not be? How often is it that new research instantly is at advanced stages? Isn't it the most natural thing from a scientific viewpoint to start off at a basic level like this?

I have my own doubts about this being possible, and I'm not saying I believe they will ever get anywhere close to achieving it but based on the current proposal, from a clean academic perspective, it looks like how a lot of scientific research goes on. Basic test, demonstrate end desire, basic product, get more funding, develop and hone technology/research towards end goal. They might not ever make the breakthrough but I don't believe anyone should be slamming them down for not delivering something they never implied they could deliver right now.

Besides, I think it'd be really creepy to know what my pets were thinking.  ;)
« Last Edit: January 24, 2014, 10:07:19 AM by lx »

Offline Daniel

  • Administrator
  • Experienced Linguist
  • *****
  • Posts: 1581
  • Country: us
    • English
Re: A device that lets dogs speak - "No More Woof"
« Reply #20 on: January 24, 2014, 11:15:15 AM »
Hmm... fair enough. The question, as I see it, is whether that's a direction to actually get farther or just improve the current model. The accuracy might be 85% right now; if that was improved to 100% it would still not do "language" or anything like that. The question then is whether it could in theory do language if it were improved more. I'm not seeing that it could.

And, to be honest then, that's why this would be interesting. If not, it's just amusing and not too connected to "language", which is fine of course.

Quote
"Right now we are only scraping the surface of possibilities; the project is only in its cradle. And to be completely honest, the first version will be quite rudimentary. But hey, the first computer was pretty crappy too."
That's what I'm really responding to. I don't mind that it's in its infancy. But they imply that their invention has as improved a future as the computer. I'm not convinced. I think it may end at the point of doing a good job with surface-level brain monitoring, never getting anywhere near the thoughts of animals. If so, it might still be useful, but it's not very impressive as "mind reading" or anything like that.

Anyway, that's just the scientist in me talking. It's fun! I would be amused by animals talking to me (however accurate/precise it was).

Quote
Besides, I think it'd be really creepy to know what my pets were thinking.
Haha. Perhaps!
Welcome to Linguist Forum! If you have any questions, please ask.

Offline lx

  • Global Moderator
  • Linguist
  • *****
  • Posts: 164
Re: A device that lets dogs speak - "No More Woof"
« Reply #21 on: January 24, 2014, 11:44:27 AM »
Quote
And, to be honest then, that's why this would be interesting. If not, it's just amusing and not too connected to "language", which is fine of course.
Yeah, I agree. I didn't really link the claim of, "We'll let you know what your dog is thinking," too much with the fact that a system of language might be there. Well, I don't believe dogs have brains that have language in the way that humans did so maybe that's why it never even registered there was ever an attempt to formally develop a system that processed thoughts as we might expect as humans. That initial first connection with the principal of human language being brought out in dogs would only be relevant to the discussion if there was a presumption that dogs processed thoughts/language in the way humans do, and this device would allow for the "missing component" or something like that. That's not something you believe, is it? That's just how I saw it. It was always about registering emotions driven by primal behaviour and detecting what feelings/emotions were connected to what brain activity. I agree it might not be interesting as a study of language, but again, that's not what I think they're selling. They're floating the idea of being able to communicate what the dog wants/feels to pet owners, which is something that would make an absolute fortune and there would be an incredibly lucrative market for that. Let's not forget we were the ones that brought this into the discussion in a linguistics forum. We were the ones that started labelling this project on these terms - not them. So, it might not be interesting for language, but that wasn't the reason why we were talking about it in the first place. They've got an idea that, if brought to fruition, would be in incredible demand (in my opinion).
Quote
Anyway, that's just the scientist in me talking. It's fun! I would be amused by animals talking to me (however accurate/precise it was).
Exactly, me too. I'd pay for something to put on a dog and go round insulting everyone in the house, when it detected the dog was making eye contact or something.  ;D

Offline Daniel

  • Administrator
  • Experienced Linguist
  • *****
  • Posts: 1581
  • Country: us
    • English
Re: A device that lets dogs speak - "No More Woof"
« Reply #22 on: January 24, 2014, 12:08:04 PM »
Fair enough :)

Quote
That initial first connection with the principal of human language being brought out in dogs would only be relevant to the discussion if there was a presumption that dogs processed thoughts/language in the way humans do, and this device would allow for the "missing component" or something like that. That's not something you believe, is it?
I believe something between the two extremes. I do believe that dogs think/"speak" in a way that we don't fully understand, and I also believe that they are not like (or as complex as) humans. I don't see a sharp line distinguishing the two, but rather than dogs don't have as complex systems as humans.

So while I don't imagine a device like this (or any device) would make a dog interesting to talk to about existential philosophy, I wouldn't find it inconceivable that we could reach some level of language/communication, perhaps along the lines of the two word stage in young children or the level of sign language achieved by apes.

As an example, it would be great if this device could be used on bloodhounds and other similar dogs and tell us what kinds of smells they were perceiving, what direction the target was, how far, how certain they were, etc.
Welcome to Linguist Forum! If you have any questions, please ask.