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Bowlingual gives dog barks a human voice

Tomy has updated its Bowlingual dog translation device. You can find out what your pooch's "woof" really means--as long as you speak Japanese!


Japanese toymaker Tomy has released a new dog translator gadget that can turn barks into words.

Bowlingual Voice is an update to Bowlingual, first released way back in 2002. The new version speaks with a human voice from a handheld unit wirelessly linked to a microphone around the dog's collar. The original version had no voice synthesizer.

Bowlingual Voice recognizes six basic canine emotions. Tomy says it can simultaneously translate the woofs of about 50 breeds of dog into Japanese.

Not surprisingly, the dogs say things like "I love you!" and not "Stop feeding me the same crap every day."

Another new feature is the use of the 2.4GHz band for transmission, which supposedly eliminates interference from other Bowlingual units. Tomy says you can use up to five Bowlinguals at the same time to translate doggie conversations. As seen in the Japanese video below, one dog asks, "Do you like me?" while the other says, "Go away!"

The handheld unit also has features like an "action dictionary" to help decipher the emotional states of hounds that don't bark much; a dog quiz; and a scheduler for trimmings and vet visits.

The idea of a dog translator sounds wacky, but Tomy says there's some science behind it. Japan Acoustic Laboratory's Matsumi Suzuki, an acoustics expert, developed the system that recognizes canine vocalizations.

I remember interviewing staff for an article in Japan Inc magazine when the original model came out. It notes that "the actual text messages are chosen at random from about 40 preset phrases within the emotion categories."

As far as I can tell, this random feature is part of Bowlingual Voice, which makes it more of an approximate interpreter than something like the universal translator from Star Trek and other science fiction tales.

You can get it on Amazon Japan for 18,900 yen, or about $200. There's no word on if or when it might be released outside Japan.