Scientists Learn How to Speak to Animals Through AI in Bizarre Breakthrough

by Shelby Scott
(Photo by Ezra Acayan/Getty Images)

Have you ever thought about what it would be like to genuinely speak to your pets? To understand your dog’s bark and be able to repeat it back to him? Well, thanks to a new bizarre breakthrough in the community of artificial intelligence (AI), we might soon be able to. Working with a variety of animals, scientists have begun using AI to interpret various animalistic languages and, through robotics, communicate with them on their level.

The Daily Mail reports scientists have begun using new methods in AI to try and communicate specifically with honeybees, whales, and elephants. And while some believe this new science could help us better comprehend wildlife species sans human-centric methods, others are concerned it could aid humans in manipulating animal populations, further putting them under human control.

Karen Bakker of the University of British Columbia spoke a little bit about the ways scientists have begun using AI to understand and practice animal languages. One of the most successful examples of this interspecies communication took place within a colony of honeybees.

Several years ago, the news outlet reports scientists in Germany managed to create what they’ve called a “RoboBee” to mimic the “waggle dance” of honeybees. Per the news outlet, honeybees use this kind of dance to relay information to one another. In the case of the RoboBee, certain individuals within the colony actually began taking in the information it relayed, even following its instruction to a certain extent. And that’s despite that the RoboBee actually looks nothing like a real-life honeybee.

How AI is Aiding Scientists in Communicating with Nature’s Largest Animals

Aside from honeybees, scientists are also hoping AI will help them learn and comprehend the complex language of sound utilized by both whales and elephants.

Though they can be powerfully loud while trumpeting with their trunks, elephants are also able to utilize low, rumbling sounds as a form of communication. And many of these sounds are not detectable by the human ear. However, thanks to AI and modern science overall, some scientists have begun detecting those formerly unrecognized sounds.

Using AI as they did in the bee study, a zoologist named Katie Payne has put the science to work to detect the infrasonic sounds. She described them as “a strange throbbing in her chest, [or] a strange feeling of unease.”

Bakker explained, “that’s often how we can, as humans, sense infrasound.”

Finally, scientists have turned their attention to a third, even more, massive beast: the sperm whale. Whales, like many other marine mammal species, use a series of clicks and whistles to talk to one another, while, to humans, the sounds seem like song. However, over the next few years, we might just be able to pull meaning from those “songs.”

Called Project CETI, or the Cetacean Translation Initiative, an international team of scientists endeavors to put together what is essentially a sperm whale dictionary. They plan to use AI to study the language of these animals, make sense of the sounds’ meanings, and, hopefully, “talk” back to them.

Of these surreal experiments, Bakker explained, “What [these researchers] are doing is not trying to teach those species human language, but rather compiling, essentially, dictionaries of signals and then attempting to understand what those signals mean within those species.”