07:02 GMT +319 September 2019
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    Swedes Dare to Develop Dolphin-Human Dictionary

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    Dolphins are known to be among the most intelligent creatures on Earth. The fact that they actually "talk" to each other has been known since long ago. Recently, a Swedish start-up has been commissioned to use artificial intelligence to try and decode dolphins' communication and translate from dolphin to human language.

    The Stockholm-based language technology company Gavagai has joined forces with researchers from Sweden's Royal Institute of Technology in an effort to use language AI to decipher what dolphins "talk" about when they communicate with each other. The ambition is to create a kind of Dolphin-Human dictionary.

    "We are optimistic and believe we can solve this," Gavagai CEO Lars Hamberg told Swedish news outlet Ny Teknik.

    The research will take place over the course of four years; the team will work with eight bottlenose dolphins at Kolmården Wildlife Park's dolphinarium in Norrköping in southern Sweden. During this period, audio and video recordings will be analyzed. Gavagai's software will be used to process all data to track patterns in the dolphins' communication.

    "We will not disturb them but just record their sounds around the clock and feed the computers with the sounds. All but two of the dolphins were born and bred in the zoo. They act like a common dolphin flock and probably have to say to each other what an ordinary flock has to say," senior adviser in zoology Mats Amundin told the Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter.

    Gavagai calls its software a "language brain" or "semantic memory." It is said to be able to work unattended and is able to decode a language on its own, regardless of the code used.
    "We have built up a semantic memory that looks at meaning instead of structure. By listening and observing what is said and written, it has learned 40 human languages. The hypothesis is that similar methods can be used for non-human communication," Lars Hamberg said.

    According to Hamberg, the dolphin study has been made possible by a number of technical achievements over the last few years.

    "Storing and managing data has become cheap. Also, there is a huge amount of dolphin sounds available together with extensive research. This allows for the rapid analysis of patterns," Hamberg said.

    Gavagai does not currently have a commercial interest in the project, but believes that the study can benefit mankind with more knowledge of general artificial intelligence. Cross-species communication does not necessarily stop with dolphins, as AI could potentially be applied to other animals. According to Hamberg, extensive research was performed on cats, birds and others.

    "The main reason for our involvement is that Gavagai has always been driven by scientific curiosity," Hamberg said.

    Gavagai was founded in 2008 as an offshoot from the Swedish Institute of Computer Science. At present, the dolphin researchers are looking forward for a grant from the Swedish Research Council.

    Dolphins produce a variety of vocalizations using nasal air sacs located just below the blowhole, usually in the form of clicks and whistles. Bottlenose dolphins are known to have signature whistles, which are unique to a specific individual. These whistles are used for communication and identification. Many regard it as the dolphin equivalent of a human name.

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