Author Topic: A device that lets dogs speak - "No More Woof"  (Read 4245 times)

Offline Corybobory

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A device that lets dogs speak - "No More Woof"
« on: January 06, 2014, 04:54:12 AM »
I read about this on Language Log and looked into it a bit.  "No More Woof" is an small EEG device that reads dogs brain signals and transforms them into vocalizations through a little computer and speaker on the device.

The description on their website (www.nomorewoof.com) says:

"The first device to translate animal thoughts into human language. No More Woof is a small gadget that uses the latest technology in micro computing and EEG to analyze animal thought patterns and spell them out in Human Language using a loudspeaker."

Here's a video by the designers showing a bit about the product:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CweAeshjObA&feature=youtu.be

What do you think?  It's not really 'dog language' in that it's unintentional thought process that human technology is doing the interpreting of - but that doesn't detract from how amazingly cool it is!!! How about one for babies?  Or one for cats, complete with swearing?

They are still in the first stage of their research, so they are encouraging people to buy one to be part of the research process so they can improve later models.

I want one though.  And a dog...
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Offline Daniel

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Re: A device that lets dogs speak - "No More Woof"
« Reply #1 on: January 06, 2014, 05:01:36 AM »
There's an inherent flaw: the translations are based on our observations. So the device, at best, creates accurate translations of what we'd believe the dog is intending to say. This is a major communication barrier.

But it's certainly fun. Maybe more? Certainly it could be a step on the way to more.


Edit: thinking about it a bit more, the problem is that it isn't two-way communication. I wonder if it will ever evolve to allow anything like a conversation. One very odd thing is that it's reading the dogs thoughts, not "speech".

Also, does it intend to stop barking? If so, how? I mean, will dogs magically stop barking because they understand that they're making human noises? Seems odd. I guess that idea is that it clarifies why they are barking so you can solve the problem faster. ...assuming it's accurate and that you want to solve the problem at that moment. Do many dog owners really have a problem understanding, for example, that the dog wants attention? I'd imagine not.

I wonder what Con Slobodchikoff (the prairie dog guy) would have to say about something like this.
« Last Edit: January 06, 2014, 11:49:11 AM by djr33 »
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Offline zaba

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Re: A device that lets dogs speak - "No More Woof"
« Reply #2 on: January 23, 2014, 03:06:19 AM »
There is nothing serious about this study. It certainly doesn't know what dogs think. It's nonsense!

Offline Corybobory

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Re: A device that lets dogs speak - "No More Woof"
« Reply #3 on: January 23, 2014, 04:02:14 AM »
^Really?  Why wouldn't it work?

If the eeg device is picking up on repeated patterns, and it could for certain emotions or thought processes, it could surely alert us with a vocal recording when the pattern is made.

It's the same logic used in a prosthetic limb which is informed by brain signals for how to move.
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Offline jkpate

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Re: A device that lets dogs speak - "No More Woof"
« Reply #4 on: January 23, 2014, 05:43:20 AM »
At least in human EEG and MEG studies, electrical activity from muscle movements (such as eye movements) tends to swamp brain activity recordings of interest, and signals are subjected to post-processing algorithms to remove these artifacts before analysis. The same issue should arise with ear movements and eye movements in dogs, but the pictures show electrodes right on top of the ears and right next to the eyes, and they are marketing devices with one or two electrodes. I don't think (although I'm not absolutely positive) that the current artifact rejection technologies can work with such a small number of sensors that are right on top of the muscles. I suspect that the general patterns they say they have found are just indicators of when the ears or eyes have moved.
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Offline zaba

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Re: A device that lets dogs speak - "No More Woof"
« Reply #5 on: January 23, 2014, 07:09:17 AM »
I agree with JKPATE.

Quote
If the eeg device is picking up on repeated patterns, and it could for certain emotions or thought processes, it could surely alert us with a vocal recording when the pattern is made.

Look, the device picks up repetitions which are a subset of the activity going on in a tremendously complex action -- but let's even forget about the meaning of EEG devices (which are in no way are capable of telling about what goes on in someone's thoughts, much less the thoughts of a dog) -- from the perspective of pure logic only, there is no way for us to assign meaning to those patterns. Period.

This is marketing, plain and simple. It's a joke (and it's supposed to be!)

Offline freknu

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Re: A device that lets dogs speak - "No More Woof"
« Reply #6 on: January 23, 2014, 07:37:11 AM »
The research in "mind reading" can be quite freaky (Reconstructing Visual Experiences from Brain Activity Evoked by Natural Movies) but I doubt only a few electrodes are capable of accurately performing such a task.
« Last Edit: January 23, 2014, 10:43:04 PM by freknu »

Offline Daniel

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Re: A device that lets dogs speak - "No More Woof"
« Reply #7 on: January 23, 2014, 07:42:43 AM »
There's also a question of precision: it may only assume something like 10 contrastive "thoughts" for dogs, in which case this is less crazy though still likely has some problems.
Jkpate, I agree, but maybe ear movements are enough in this case for a few basic "thoughts".
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Offline Corybobory

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Re: A device that lets dogs speak - "No More Woof"
« Reply #8 on: January 23, 2014, 11:58:56 AM »
The one with only 2 electrodes is the $40 cheap one, that is marketed to raise money for this prototype - sure, more nodes = more accuracy in picking up patterns.

But this isn't the only machine working on a brain-computer interface, like I said there are prosthetic limbs that run on the same idea, and through eeg as well.  I don't seem to understand why it's unfeasable?
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Offline lx

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Re: A device that lets dogs speak - "No More Woof"
« Reply #9 on: January 23, 2014, 12:49:56 PM »
Quote
But this isn't the only machine working on a brain-computer interface, like I said there are prosthetic limbs that run on the same idea, and through eeg as well.  I don't seem to understand why it's unfeasable?

Neither do I.

I mean, you can fly a toy helicopter based on brain waves with a set of pretty ordinary-looking headphones, land it and everything. I know the science behind that is based on attention and meditation levels, but if you can get that and fly a toy helicopter with it for around £100, I don't see the big leap to why this sort of invention is still considered something way off in the depths of scientific future. Okay, it wouldn't be able to have any deep meaning and it might be based on quite crude assumptions, but maybe the brain structure of animals without higher cognitive processes is easier to discern, with fewer natural states and less messy intereferences (nb: I said 'maybe'). Okay, hunger is a process deep within the brain that probably isn't able to be detected by anything on the commercial market, but while I'm not advocating that this works (only read about it for the first time when Cory posted the link), I'm not left with a sense of disbelief (nb: I haven't read the claims of what it says it can say) but the general idea of basic-level attentional states is already on the market to fly toys for humans. I think if you've selected reliably-specific surface brain activity in animals, then at least for those feelings, I am not left with a strong taste of disbelief in my mouth at the idea of this being available (not specifically talking about this product itself).
« Last Edit: January 23, 2014, 12:52:13 PM by lx »

Offline Daniel

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Re: A device that lets dogs speak - "No More Woof"
« Reply #10 on: January 23, 2014, 01:23:41 PM »
The issue, I think, is that flying a toy helicopter is NOT language. That's what is misleading about this whole thing. Language, which is what this claims/hints at being, is way beyond the current state.

If you read some research on ERPs for language, you'll see just how extremely sensitive they are-- if you blink then the entire set of data must be thrown out!
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Offline lx

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Re: A device that lets dogs speak - "No More Woof"
« Reply #11 on: January 23, 2014, 01:26:07 PM »
Quote
The issue, I think, is that flying a toy helicopter is NOT language. That's what is misleading about this whole thing.

But when was this about language? Isn't this about processing the feelings of dogs and then alerting their owners via language as to what they're feeling? I mean, it could be: - one bleep for happy - two bleeps for sad. Language is not the central issue to this discussion, unless I've really misinterpreted what we're talking about here (and if so: woops, my bad  :P).
« Last Edit: January 23, 2014, 01:27:53 PM by lx »

Offline Corybobory

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Re: A device that lets dogs speak - "No More Woof"
« Reply #12 on: January 23, 2014, 02:20:27 PM »
This is how I am understand it too, Alex, that it's about processing signals and alerting owners via language (with a cute speaker where you can choose the pre-recorded voices).  It's not 'letting a dog's inner voice out' or anything, it's just finding patterns and associations and mapping them onto the real world, and announcing it through an audible medium (a hilarious audible medium I'm sure :))
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Offline jkpate

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Re: A device that lets dogs speak - "No More Woof"
« Reply #13 on: January 23, 2014, 03:48:23 PM »
I don't know, even if the idea in general is feasible, this group does not strike me as pursuing it in a serious way.

Also, the one sensor version is being advertised for $65, and the two sensor version is being advertised for $300. They don't say how many sensors the $1200 version will have, but the pictures don't have more than six sensors. (and two of the sensors are down around the dog's jaw!?)
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Offline Corybobory

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Re: A device that lets dogs speak - "No More Woof"
« Reply #14 on: January 23, 2014, 04:00:44 PM »
^perhaps recording salivation?

I participated in an EEG study with less than 10 sensors placed on my scalp - to monitor if after repeat trials of imagining the same hand movement, the patterns could be recognized.  It seemed enough to the researchers!

From the site:
"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."

They're not lying about its start up-complexity - but by selling the prototypes, they are able to fund further research and refinement, and get a bit group of beta testers for the products.
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