Monday, June 20, 2011

To CHAT with dolphins

Experts develop tools to talk to dolphins
The Independent: Off the Bahamas a dolphinologist and an artificial intelligence specialist thrown together on board The Stenella are this summer developing a piece of hi-tech gadgetry that will, if it works, fulfill the 1960's vision of talking to dolphins...

The Cetacean Hearing and Telemtry, or CHAT, interface... is an iPhone-sized device with two hydrophones attached and a unique one-handed keyboard... which, when combined, is designed to be worn around a diver's neck while swimming with wild dolphins. Inside this box is a processor that contains a complex algorithm or pattern detector that, it is hoped, will learn to identify the fundamental units of dolphin communication to enable humans to decode dolphin and then reply.

'CHAT is more more a potential interface than a translator as it is supplying us humans with an acoustic bridge to allow exchanges between two acoustic species,' says Dr Denise Herzing, of the Department of Biological and Psychological Sciences at Florida Atlantic University and founder of the Wild Dolphin Project... 'Most scientists create a system of communication and expect the dolphins -- especially those in captivity -- to learn it by using fish as a reward, but the dolphins are not empowered to use the system to request things from the humans.'...

With the summer a 'resounding success' so far for CHAT, Dr Herzing is confident that this only the start of a journey in two-way communication. After all, it 'would be nice if we'd had some practice with both etiquette and the ethics of interacting, as well as establishing some potential universal protocols.' Glimpses of which, she believes, she has seen already in the mimicry, imitation and synchrony dolphins have initiated to engage with humans.
Image source here.