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Artificial intelligence could translate dog vocalisation
Researchers adapted a tool previously trained for human speech.

Technology can distinguish between playfulness and aggression.

Researchers from the University of Michigan are exploring how artificial intelligence (AI) could be used to decipher dog barks.

The AI model has the potential to discover information from animal vocalisations, including the dog’s age, breed and sex. The researchers also believe it could identify if a bark is playful or aggressive.

The project saw researchers adapt a speech-processing model, which was previously trained to study human speech.

Through a collaboration with the National Institute of Astrophysics, Optics and Electronics (INAOE) Institute in Mexico, the team discovered that this model could act as a starting point for training new systems for animal communication.

The development of an AI model for animal vocalisations was previously hampered by the lack of public data. Although human samples are easy to record, there are more limitations when collecting animal recordings.

Researchers say that animal vocalisations are logistically more difficult to record as they either need to be recorded in the wild or, for domestic pets, with the permission of owners.

It was due to these limitations that researchers opted to instead repurpose an existing, human-oriented model.

Existing voice technologies, such as voice-to-text and language translation, are trained to identify the nuances of human speech. The tools are able to distinguish between tone, pitch and accent to translate speech and identify speakers.

The team adapted this model by using a dataset of dog vocalisations from 74 different dogs – of varying breed, age, sex and context. These recordings were then used to modify the machine-learning model.

Using this tool, researchers were able to generate and interpret acoustic representations from the dogs. The AI model not only passed four different classification tasks, but also outperformed other models specifically trained on dog barks with accuracy figures of up to 70 per cent.

Rada Mihalcea, from the University of Michigan’s AI laboratory, said: "This is the first time that techniques optimised for human speech have been built upon to help with the decoding of animal communication.

"Our results show that the sounds and patterns derived from human speech can serve as a foundation for analysing and understanding the acoustic patterns of other sounds, such as animal vocalisations."

The full study can be found here.

Image © Shutterstock

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Charities' XL bully neutering scheme closes

News Story 1
 A scheme that helped owners of XL bully dogs with the cost of neutering has closed to new applications due to high demand.

The scheme, run by the RSPCA, Blue Cross, and Battersea, has helped 1,800 dogs and their owners after XL bullies were banned under the Dangerous Dogs Act.

In England and Wales, owners of XL bully dogs which were over one year old on 31 January 2021 have until 30 June 2024 to get their dog neutered. If a dog was between seven months and 12 months old, it must be neutered by 31 December 2024. If it was under seven months old, owners have until 30 June 2025.

More information can be found on the Defra website. 

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Avian flu cattle outbreak spreads to tenth US state

Cattle in two dairy herds in Iowa have tested positive for highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), making it the tenth state in the USA to be affected by the ongoing outbreak of the disease in cattle.

Since March 2024, more than 80 herds across the USA have been affected by the virus and three dairy workers have tested positive. Authorities have introduced measures to limit the spread of the virus and farmers have been urged to strengthen their biosecurity protocols.

Mike Naig, Iowa secretary of agriculture, said: "Given the spread of highly pathogenic avian influenza within dairy cattle in many other states, it is not a surprise that we would have a case given the size of our dairy industry in Iowa.

"While lactating dairy cattle appear to recover with supportive care, we know this destructive virus continues to be deadly for poultry."