Feeds

Dolphin speaks: Ditch the iPad, give me the Toughbook!

I can haz Tuna

High performance access to file storage

Dolphins are being taught to use computers to communicate with humans. A human-cetacean translation tool will be demonstrated in early 2011 - with hardware supplied by Panasonic and its range of Toughbook laptops.

Jack Kassewitz, 63, co-founder of SpeakDolphin, a Miami-based group that conducts dolphin research, originally purchased an Apple iPad for the task but found it entirely impractical.

To the rescue, a representative from Panasonic who saw the iPad in use. Surprise, surprise, he recommended the Toughbook and lent three devices to SpeakDolphin to speed the organisation's research.

Panasonic Toughbook Dolphin

I wanna play Echo, this isn't a Mega Drive!

According to Kassewitz, Panasonic was "the jet-fuel to launch this rocket". The Toughbook's ability to multitask, get wet and be seen in bright sunlight allowed the project to evolve, he said. The Toughbooks also removed a noticeable fear associated with potential tech damage - a big factor in the dolphins' willingness to take part, apparently.

The first step involved to create the translation tool is a cognitive game where dolphins are shown items in real life, then asked to identify them on the screen. While a mental connection is made, sounds and actions are recorded and associated with each symbol.

This shows that dolphins can understand "artificial" language, but does it mean that they have a language of their own? This is a highly contentious subject, but Kassewitz is convinced that his research will prove that dolphins do have a language - with vocabulary and syntax - rather than simply communicate emotional states to each other through sounds and body language.

In his view, dolphins can communicate in a language almost as complex as those used by humans - made more difficult to determine by the presence of dialects. However, an intricate language can be analysed. When two different dolphins are shown an uncharted object - a flower pot, for example - the response is almost identical and different from other sounds.

I'm sorry, would you repeat that?

Another sign of dolphin intellect is drawn from their musical ability, Kassewitz says. When he played the flute, the dolphins repeated the 290 notes in his performance sequentially, albeit in "dolphin tongue", he says. But is this an example of, admittedly impressive, mimicry?

Not so, Kassewitz claims. When the sounds were correlated, it became clear that dolphins often created their own music too, complete with chords and musical structure, he says. Kassewitz enlisted the help of some graduate students and transposed some dolphin music to human ears. This MP3 sound clip features the original dolphin sounds layered over the final piece.

SpeakDolphin has built a database and developed a program to make sense of the dolphin sounds in real time. Kassewitz says this is almost ready for demonstration and by 2011 we'll officially talk to the dolphins.

DolphinSpeak

What's he spouting off about now?

We want Flipper!

SpeakDolphin has enlisted the help of Greenaway Marine, a UK company, to build a 55in underwater screen, which will be remotely-controlled by a Toughbook. The dolphins will then have their own underwater entertainment system and a choice of what they want to view. I suspect they'll have the intellect to switch it off if the X-factor comes on though. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Report: Apple seeking to raise iPhone 6 price by a HUNDRED BUCKS
'Well, that 5c experiment didn't go so well – let's try the other direction'
Samsung Galaxy S5 fingerprint scanner hacked in just 4 DAYS
Sammy's newbie cooked slower than iPhone, also costs more to build
Microsoft lobs pre-release Windows Phone 8.1 at devs who dare
App makers can load it before anyone else, but if they do they're stuck with it
Feast your PUNY eyes on highest resolution phone display EVER
Too much pixel dust for your strained eyeballs to handle
Zucker punched: Google gobbles Facebook-wooed Titan Aerospace
Up, up and away in my beautiful balloon flying broadband-bot
Nvidia gamers hit trifecta with driver, optimizer, and mobile upgrades
Li'l Shield moves up to Android 4.4.2 KitKat, GameStream comes to notebooks
AMD unveils Godzilla's graphics card – 'the world's fastest, period'
The Radeon R9 295X2: Water-cooled, 5,632 stream processors, 11.5TFLOPS
Sony battery recall as VAIO goes out with a bang, not a whimper
The perils of having Panasonic as a partner
NORKS' own smartmobe pegged as Chinese landfill Android
Fake kit in the hermit kingdom? That's just Kim Jong-un-believable!
Gimme a high S5: Samsung Galaxy S5 puts substance over style
Biometrics and kid-friendly mode in back-to-basics blockbuster
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
HP ArcSight ESM solution helps Finansbank
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.