I, like many anglers, rely on a sophisticated electronic fishfinder to help me locate fish on waters big and small. They’re great, really, but what if we could instead just pick up the phone, dial up a few of our closest dolphin friends and get a fishing report straight from the cetacean’s mouth? Don’t laugh, researchers are working on it, sort of…
From this story in Time:
It may not be a shiny gold inverted-V that clips to your shirt (or if you’re Ferengi, inside one of your capacious earlobes) but a new underwater translator could soon allow divers to make sense of dolphin sounds, and here’s the shocker: even speak back in crude dolphin-ese…That could all be about to change courtesy a couple conversation-obsessed scientists˜including one versed in artificial intelligence research˜collaborating on a project dubbed Cetacean Hearing and Telemetry, or CHAT. Their goal? To partner with dolphins and “co-create” a language both humans and dolphins can understand, allowing each to communicate with the other naturally.
_Here’s how it works: divers will have computers and “twiddlers” (think underwater mouse-keyboard) as well as hydrophones (to pick up dolphin sounds) and special LEDs in their masks to indicate which direction a dolphin sound came from. When they start testing this summer, they’ll basically be learning and cataloguing sounds, from which pattern detection software–it’s hoped–will be able to identify the grammatical building blocks of dolphin-ese, be that word or signal based.
Hmmm, if we truly could talk to dolphins, I wonder if this is what they’d tell us?