Thu, Apr 27, 2017 - Page 11 News List

Swedish start-up plans to test AI with dolphins


After mastering 40 human languages, a Swedish start-up has turned to dolphins, hoping to use its language-analysis software to unlock the secrets of communication used by the aquatic mammals.

Using technology from artificial intelligence (AI) language-analysis company Gavagai AB, researchers at Sweden’s KTH Royal Institute of Technology are to begin compiling a dolphin-language dictionary.

The software will monitor captive bottlenose dolphins at a wildlife park about 145km south of Stockholm, the company said in an e-mailed statement yesterday.

“We hope to be able to understand dolphins with the help of artificial intelligence technology,” Jussi Karlgren, an adjunct professor of language technology at KTH and cofounder of Gavagai, said in the statement. “We know that dolphins have a complex communication system, but we don’t know what they are talking about yet.”

Tech giants such as Inc and Alphabet Inc are using AI and “machine learning” — essentially getting computers to act without being programmed for specific new tasks — to deliver goods more quickly, interact with customers faster and create new tools at an increasingly rapid rate.

Changes ushered in by AI will help companies that embrace them and put up barriers for those that do not, Amazon chief executive officer Jeff Bezos said in his annual letter to shareholders earlier this month.

The dolphin project — a planned four-year effort — came about because Gavagai’s software has proven capable in real-life, natural language processing, chief executive officer Lars Hamberg said by telephone.

Although there is no immediate business purpose, the research on dolphins will help the company sharpen its tool for other tasks, he said.

With new recording methods and larger resources for computation, more dolphin data is available, which is why Hamberg is confident Gavagai will unlock their dictionary and ultimately communicate with the animals, he said.

For decades, the US Navy has used marine mammals such as dolphins and sea lions to carry out a range of tasks, from locating underwater mines to harbor defense. The animals are part of the US Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific in San Diego, California.

Gavagai has spent about US$10 million over the past few years developing its language AI machine, Hamberg said.

The company’s customers include WPP Group PLC’s market research company Kantar, SAS Institute Inc and Nielsen Holdings PLC.

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