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Canine Translator—Future of Dog Guide–Human Communication?

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black labrador and iPad

I often discover new and useful apps for my iPhone or iPad by just randomly poking around in the app store. I really found an awesome gem this week. It needs some accessibility improvement, but I think you'll find it useful, even in its current version.

It's called Canine Translator 2020, and it claims to be the first interspecies automatic translator for home use. It's still in beta, and the makers caution that everything doesn't translate smoothly between humans and canines. Of course, dog owners know that already.

You need a small device, called the C-Translate, that hooks to your dog's collar. It reminds me of a Jawbone Up for Fitbit sort of thing—the manufacturer's site is a little vague about what it measures. It has an accelerometer, a heart rate monitor, and a light sensor. It connects to your IOS device via bluetooth. I got the beta version for $9.95, with free shipping.

Once you're hooked up, you ask your dog questions. The website suggests you have a friend ask the questions, as apparently having the owner do the asking can somehow influence the outcome. The app displays the dialog on the iPad screen in text, and the screen changes color based on the level of "certainty" of the translation from dog to human—green for sure, red for lots of doubt. This is where we could use some improvement—just explicitly stating the certainty level in text would allow it to be read by VoiceOver.

I asked a friend to sit down with Paige, my dog guide of seven years. Here's a partial transcript.

Human: Are you a dog? (I'll insert here that the questioners are advised to keep the questions very simple, and to begin with questions to which the answer is known. My friend might have taken this a bit literally.)
Dog: Yes [green screen]
Human: Do you like your job?
Dog: Job? [red]
Human: What do you like?
Dog: I like dinner. I love dinner. [green]
Human: Do you like the subway?
Dog: Yes, I like the train. [yellow]
Human: Why do you like the train?
Dog: Why? [red] (I reminded my friend that dogs don't do "why.")
Human: Do you like the bus?
Dog: I saw a bagel on the train[green]
Human: What else do you like?
Dog: It had a napkin...I ate the napkin.[green]
Human: What did your mom do when you ate the napkin?
Dog: My mother wasn't there...[yellow]
Human: I mean her (pointing to me) Dog: I like her. (Stands up and wiggles, wags tail) [green]
Human: What did she do when you ate the napkin?
Dog: The napkin...it had bagel dust on it...it was delicious...there was butter...[green]
Human: What else do you like?
Dog: I like the park. [green]
Dog: I like breakfast. [green]
Human: Do you like grooming?
Dog: I love grooming! (Wiggles, almost rolls over) [green]
Human: Do you like treats?
Dog: Treats! (Runs to me, out of range of the Bluetooth) [Gray]

No need for a translator for that one, I told my friend, and gave Paige a cookie for all her trouble.

If you're considering purchasing this item, the manufacturer indicates that this product is only available on April 1.


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