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Dolphin Debut

Dolphins are capable of talking to each other. Can AI decode what they’re saying?



KOLMARDEN, Sweden -- The Stockholm-based startup Gavagai claims to have cracked more than 40 human languages with its artificial intelligence (AI) language-analysis software.

Now, researchers from the KTH Royal Institute of Technology are using that same language-analysis software to try to determine what dolphins are trying to tell us and each other.

"They use frequencies that we can't hear, they use frequencies up to 150 kilohertz. So, we have to have devices that brings that down to something that we can even detect," said Mats Almundin, senior zoological adviser at Kolmarden Wildlife Park.

During the four-year project, researchers will record the high-pitched conversations of 11 bottlenosed dolphins at Kolmarden Wildlife Park, which is located about 93 miles south of Stockholm.

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The AI launguage analysis software will take it from there, searching for meaning and patterns in dolphin conversations.

"With this technology, you can ask the computer to take samples of recordings over maybe weeks," Almundin said. "And just let the computer investigate the similarity, and then make a statistic (note) of how often a whistle occurs and which whistle mostly is preceding that and following it."

It's widely known that dolphins communicate using a combination of clicks and whistles. Now, experts said they've observed the marine mammals using various "signature whistles" that appear to be associated with specific dolphins.

There are, however, several challenges associated with trying to decode what dolphins are saying.

Experts have noticed when multiple dolphins are making sounds, it's difficult to determine which dolphin is "speaking."

"The sound is produced within the blow hole and nothing is shown on the outside," Almundin explained. "So, you don't know who is talking to whom and who is answering, you know. And that's the main problem to understand the dialogue."

Although researchers don't expect to have a "dolphin dictionary" at the end of this study, the hope is that this may help break down language barriers among different species.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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