Humans have long tried to understand what their cats are trying to tell them.
If you spend most of your time trying to translate what all those meows mean, there’s an app for that. No, really.
The app is a pet project of Javier Sanchez, a technical program manager at Akvelon, a business and technology solutions firm. It’s called MeowTalk, and it uses data science and machine learning to help you communicate with your kitty.
MeowTalk listens to the sounds a cat makes, and then offers up a human language translation. It promises to remove the barrier between pet and person on interactions ranging from “feed me” to “I’m in pain” — sounds like something every cat owner has been wishing for since, well, forever.
Essentially, the app listens for cat meows, and then categorizes those vocalizations into 10 built-in intents that are universal to all cats.
This isn’t Sanchez’s first foray into voice technology. It’s just his first with cat voice technology.
“I worked in the machine learning platform team at Alexa for a while,” Sanchez said. “And I got to see how the sausage was made, how they train their models and work with all the data science platforms. So I was fresh off the heels of that and I was thinking, ‘Well, we could do something similar with cats and it could be an app.'”
Of course, all cats are different. There are certainly some vocalizations that are common across the board, but cats don’t have a shared language. Each kitty develops their own vocabulary that they use consistently — and to be honest, it’s mostly shaped by our responses to them.
If you have reservations about how well MeowTalk can accurately translate, I have some good news: you don’t actually have to rely on that out-of-the-box version. With user input, the app can be trained to understand a specific cat. You can assign meows to new labels when you think you know what your feline friend is asking for. This helps the app learn and make more accurate predictions next time.
On top of that, users can create cat profiles for each of your fur babies.
Akvelon gave Sanchez the green light about five months ago, and he hopes that his app will prove particularly helpful amid the pandemic.
“A tool like this can help certain people bond even more with their cats, especially if they can’t be in contact with other people on a regular basis,” Sanchez said. “So this could be a real game changer for a key demographic that have cats.”