We can already track our dogs’ running, sleeping, and eating patterns, thanks to the zealous expansion of wearable tech for pets. But Tomas Mazzetti went way beyond when he got curious as to what would happen if he strapped an off-the-shelf EEG machine to his mother’s Australian terrier. The observations that followed inspired the launch of a new project for Mazzetti and his team of fellow creatives at the Nordic Society for Invention and Discovery: No More Woof, a headset that translates dogs’ thoughts into speech.
The Nordic Society for Invention and Discovery is a strange animal, so to speak. The collaboration between ad agency Studio Total and Swedish retailer MiCasa has spawned a number of other quirky products--a rocking chair that charges your iPad, a weather forecasting lamp, and a levitating carpet for small-ish pets. No More Woof is the society’s latest work in progress, and the team recently launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise more funding for research.
So far, Mazzetti, co-founder of Studio Total, has been able to determine three baseline dog emotions to translate into speech: sleepiness, agitation, and curiosity. “When the dog is sleepy, we translate to ‘I’m tired.’ And if they are really agitated, we can translate to ‘I’m excited!’” Mazzetti said. “And the most active brainwave is when the dog sees a human face and tries to recognize that face. Then the brain is working overtime.”
None of NSID’s five employees are working overtime themselves. The collaboration between their respective employers allows them to put in hours for wonky passion projects like No More Woof. As for the motivation behind this particular project, Mazzetti puts it simply: “We always try to do things we would like if we were 10 years old. That's the key to our business.”
Next, Mazzetti and his team will be trying to work on deciphering hunger pangs as processed by a dog's brain. NSID is also working on finding cheaper EEG machines, after which they can fine-tune the software. They’ve done tests on roughly 20 dogs, of which they found that short-haired pets were able to communicate with the EEG machine better. If NSID receives more funding, its researchers hope to have something for sale by March or April of next year.
But while Mazzetti’s primary goal is to produce something commercially viable (even if it is limited, and possibly very annoying), he’s also hoping that other research institutions or retailers might pick up where NSID leaves off. He wonders what thoughts could be translated if someone were to put a more sophisticated version of No More Woof on the head of a primate, or another highly intelligent mammal.
Dog-speech could also go both ways someday, Mazzetti suggests. “It would also be really cool to have something on a human head that could translate into dog language,” Mazzetti said.