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Comprehend your canine's claptrap

Supercollar lets you hear thoughts of dogs

More silly season insanity, this time with a device that could turn you into Dr Dolittle. Japanese toy maker Takara and mobile phone content provider Index have developed a product which 'analyses' dogs' emotional feelings and conveys them in words. Now it's your turn to listen to what your dog barks about and find out if they're really your best friend.

The Bowlingual consists of a terminal with a liquid crystal display and a separate wireless compact microphone. Placed on a dog's collar, the microphone will pick up and send out the dog's bark to the terminal. The terminal will then analyse its voiceprint and categorise it into one of six 'feelings' — frustration, menace, insistence, fun, sorrow and desires, the companies said.

Voiceprint analysis technology is provided by Japan Acoustic Lab, a specialist in the field whose clients include Japan's Public Prosecutor's Office, the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department and governmental institutions in various countries.

Collected bark data can be used in two ways. Woofing can be immediately 'translated' into words picked from a 200-word dictionary. For example, when the voice data is categorized as fun, expressions such as "it's fun", "I'm happy" and "cool!" are available. The device can either display them on the screen or voice them from the speaker.

Another route from dog to human is for bark data to be stored and analysed over the longer term and come out as either the dog's journal or the dog's 'mood scale' for a day. Takara and Index are also developing a Bowlingual email service so that the owner can see what the dog is saying while being away from home.

This product is part of Takara, Index and Japan Acoustic Lab's Dolittle Project, which has been developing products since the first quarter this year, based on communications between mankind and animals. The project team is also working on the development of a dog-like robot, which will translate what the real dog barks, the statement said. This, it seems, could allow the creation of a virtual dog that you could take with you that would be a dog's remote mouthpiece.

Bowlingual will be on sale in Japan in February 2002 for the barking mad price of around £74. There is a plan to market the device worldwide, but the shipping date has not been scheduled, according to Terumi Endo, a spokeswoman for Takara. The date for the email service to start and the launch of the robot have not been decided, she said.


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