Hi-tech analyzer lets you feel like a dog

Man's best friend is perhaps tired of listening to your grumbling. Japanese toy maker Takara Co. Ltd. and cell phone content provider Index Corp. have developed a product which analyzes 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 he's your real friend.

The "Bowlingual" device consists of a terminal with a liquid crystal display, and a separate wireless compact microphone. The microphone, which is placed on a dog's collar, will pick up and send out its bark to the terminal. The terminal will, then, analyze its voiceprint and categorize it into one of the six feelings: frustration, menace, insistence, fun, sorrow and desires, the companies said.

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

The collected data is used in two ways. One is to be immediately translated into words, which are randomly 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.

The other way is that the data is to be stored and analyzed over a longer term and come out as the dog's journal or the dog's mood scale for a day. The companies are also developing a Bowlingual e-mail 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 have 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.

Bowlingual will be on sale in Japan in February 2002 at 12,800 yen (US$104). There is a plan to market the device worldwide, although the shipping date has not been scheduled, according to Terumi Endo, a spokeswoman for Takara. The date for the e-mail service to start and the launch of the robot have not been decided, she said.

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Kuriko Miyake

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