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Wednesday, 8 August, 2001, 11:47 GMT 12:47 UK
Gadget with more byte than bark
The invention claims to cross the language barrier
Some might think it is a device for the barking mad, but inventors in Japan claim to have developed a gadget that lets pet owners understand just how their animal is feeling.

Toymaker Takara says its canine translator can decipher those unintelligible barks and growls as human emotions and even tell whether a dog's day was good or bad.

It offers a way of communicating with a living thing

Takara spokeswoman Yoko Watanabe
The device, called the Bow-lingual, consists of a small microphone attached to the dog's collar and "reads" dog-speak by matching sounds to a set of pre-programmed wave patterns.

Its makers say the machine can make sense of a range of six doggy emotions - frustration, alarm, self-expression, happiness, sadness and desire - and transmit the results to a display on a hand-held console.

The Bow-lingual interprets a dog's moods by using pictures and one of 200 phrases, such as "I can't stand it", "How boring" and "I'm arf-ully lonely. Please play with me more".

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Takara spokeswoman Yoko Watanabe said the invention offers "a way of communicating with a living thing, an animal that's part of our everyday lives".

It might be a dog's life, but after hours of eating, sleeping and doing whatever else dogs do best, the Bow-lingual can tell whether a pet has had a "ruff" day by summing up all the data collected in a dog's diary with sentences such as "So many fun things today. What an ultra-happy day".

The Bow-lingual is part of the company's Dolittle Project for developing toys for improving communication between humans and animals.

And in a country where one in two people own a mobile phone, there are plans to adapt the technology so that anxious owners who are away from home can be kept up to date with their dog's feelings delivered straight to their handset.

The Bow-lingual will go on sale in Japan next February at a cost of 12,800 yen ($103) and may be exported later on, the company said.

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