Javier Sanchez, a former Amazon engineer who was involved with the development of the company's "Alexa" device, is now working on a project that could help us communicate with our cats.
Sanchez is currently a project manager with Akvelon, a tech company based in Bellvue, Washington, that is working on an app called MeowTalk, which promises to translate the sounds that cats make for humans to understand.
Sanchez said that he has narrowed the sounds that cats make down to 9 distinct sounds that are each attached to different intentions. For example, some sounds translate to things like "I'm hungry" or "I'm in pain."
"It's not a language. They don’t share words or communicate with each other. Cats never meow at each other out in nature," Sanchez says.
Sanchez learned a lot about speech recognition while working on the Alexa device, and now he has used that experience to find out what cats are trying to say.
With the MeowTalk app, cat owners can record the sounds made by their cats to get a translation.
The app's description reads:
"Using machine learning MeowTalk instantaneously translates your cat’s meows into one of nine general cat intents; these nine intents represent cat moods and states of mind. But each cat also has its own unique vocalization and vocabulary of meows that goes beyond these nine general intents. You can train the MeowTalk app to learn your cat’s unique vocabulary of meows (cat talk) by telling the app what each meow means when your cat makes it. When you give the app 5 to 10 examples of a specific meow for your cat (e.g. "food", "let me out") the app can start to recognize that meow (be your cat translator) when it hears it."
The MeowTalk is still under development but a beta version is already available for download on both Apple and Andriod devices. As more people use the app, the developers are able to further refine the speech recognition, and they are also taking feedback from users about how the app can be approved. Sanchez says that if the app is a success, he hopes to eventually develop a collar that translates for your cat as it meows.