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New invention turns miaows into speech

02 May 2016

That’s right cat lovers. You soon will be able to have actual conversations with your cat.

A new invention designed to owners the opportunity to ‘spea’ with their feline companions has had its prototype launched.

The Catterbox device fits on the collar of a cat and uses a unique mathematical algorithm. It houses a microphone, speaker, Bluetooth technology and WiFi allowing cats’ miaows to be recorded, processed and then played as human speech. The device identifies a cat’s miaow with a digital sensor and uses a unique programme to turn it into a human voice.

This unique piece of technology was developed after extensive research into feline behaviour, the developers explain.

Pet food brand Temptations funded the prototype, which was produced using a 3D printer.

How does it work exactly?

The collar will output sound, while a smartphone app will analyse the sound against an extensive database of cat miaows using a custom made algorithm which can distinguish sounds from a wide range of cat ‘accents’.

The device has a preprogrammed selection of phrases that are spoken based on its interpretations of the cat’s voice. The collar listens for a “miaow” sound made by cats, then based on this sound uses a unique custom algorithm to detect if this in fact a miaow, or another sound. If the database gets a match, the device will play a phrase in a human voice chosen by the owner to represent their cat’s personality.

The device uses digital signal processing technology similar to that found in the speech recognition software used in the operating system of smartphones.

Oliver Downs, from Temptations, says international studies have shown that cats do not communicate with each other by miaowing, rather it was their chosen way to communicate with humans.

“Numerous studies have shown this to be the case and we wanted to take this one step further and enrich the relationship between cats and their owners,” he says.

Downs says miaow is something a cat uses almost exclusively to talk and mimic humans ­very much like a parrot does, in a sense.

“We believe this new technology will offer a new way for cats and their owners to interact on a daily basis and enrich their relationship,” he says.

Downs says the device will be demonstrated in New Zealand and the USA this month as part of the Temptation’s test marketing programme.

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