Scientists working in Florida will soon attempt to test technology that could actually let us communicate with dolphins. No, we probably won't be able to chat with them about whether or not The Office will still be good without Steve Carell or the latest developments in the real estate market, but the innovation could represent a breakthrough in two-way communication with animals.
Animal trainers and scientists have long been able to have one-sided communication with dolphins, and bottle nose dolphins can keep track of over 100 different human words. They even understand basic grammar, and according to New Scientist know the difference in the meaning of phrases like "bring the man to the surfboard" and "bring the surfboard to the man."
Though, humans really can't make much of their squeaks and calls (even the ones our ears can register). In other words we can't differentiate "Eeeeee eeee ee eeeeeeeeee!" from "Ee eeeeeeeee eee eeeee!"
New Scientist reports that researches working at the Wild Dolphin Project in Jupiter, Florida could change that.
The scientists are working with dolphins to "co-create a language." Scientists will use "a prototype device featuring a smartphone-sized computer and two hydrophones capable of detecting the full range of dolphin sounds" with the hopes that the dolphins will be able to give signals to humans based on their various sounds. The hope is that dolphins will begin to associate their natural sounds with certain objects or concepts.
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So if a dolphins wants some food, it could give off one signal, and if it wants to play with some seaweed, it could give off a different squeal.
The project still has a long way to go, but it sure is promising.
[New Scientist: Talk with a dolphin via underwater translation machine via Gawker]