Could this device allow dogs to talk like humans?

A team of oddball inventors claim they are developing a headset that translates a canine's thoughts into words

By Tuan C. Nguyen
March 3, 2014 1:00AM (UTC)
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(Ermolaev Alexander via Shutterstock)

This article originally appeared on

Smithsonian Magazine In a way, the intimate relationship between man and man's best friend is unjustly lopsided. For their part, dogs are able to understand us very well. In fact, researchers believe a border collie named Chaser has demonstrated a vocabulary of more than 1,000 words, along with the ability to comprehend more complex language elements such as grammar and sentences. Meanwhile humans, despite even the most, er, dogged scientific efforts, have yet to decode the literal meaning behind a canine’s bark (if there is any).

But a Swedish design lab that calls itself the Nordic Society for Invention and Discovery thinks that animal behaviorists have been going about it the wrong way. What its developers are proposing instead is the development of a device that can infer what an animal is thinking or feeling by analyzing, in real-time, changes in the brain. The concept they've imagined, dubbed No More Woof, would be sold as a lightweight headset lined with electroencephalogram (EEG) sensors, which record brain wave activity.


When combined with a low-cost Raspberry Pi microcomputer, the inventors surmise that the electrode-filled device, which rests atop a dog's head, could match a wide range of signals to distinct thought patterns. A specialized software known as a brain-computer interface (BCI) would then translate the data into phrases to communicate. The phrases, played through a loudspeaker, may range from "I'm tired" to "I'm curious what that is."

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Tuan C. Nguyen

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