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Scientists are using AI to create universal translators for chickens

WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF

Today we’re using AI to translate human and non-human languages, and the results are good …

 

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Have you ever wondered what chickens are talking about, or dolphins, pigs, or even mice? Well, for the latter three we’ve been creating universal translators for some time now. After all, why just give humans the gift of universal translation!? Chickens, it turns out, are quite the communicators—their clucks, squawks, and purrs are not just random sounds but a complex language system. These sounds are their way of interacting with the world and expressing joy, fear, and social cues to one another.

 

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Like humans, the “language” of chickens varies with age, environment, and surprisingly, domestication, giving us insights into their social structures and behaviors. Understanding these vocalisations can transform our approach to poultry farming, enhancing chicken welfare and quality of life.

At Dalhousie University a team is conducting research that uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to decode the language of chickens. It’s a project that’s set to revolutionise our understanding of these feathered creatures and their communication methods, offering a window into their world that was previously closed to us.

The use of AI and machine learning in this endeavour is like having a universal translator for chicken speech. AI can analyse vast amounts of audio data. As their research, yet to be peer-reviewed, is documenting, their algorithms are learning to recognise patterns and nuances in chicken vocalizations. This isn’t a simple task – chickens have a range of sounds that vary in pitch, tone, and context.

 

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But by using advanced data analysis techniques, they’re beginning to crack their code. This breakthrough in animal communication is not just a scientific achievement; it’s a step towards more humane and empathetic treatment of farm animals.

One of the most exciting aspects of the research is understanding the emotional content behind these sounds. Using natural language processing (NLP), a technology often used to decipher human languages, they’re learning to interpret the emotional states of chickens. Are they stressed? Are they content? By understanding their emotional state, the team hope poultry farmer can make more informed decisions about their care and environment.

In addition to vocalisations their research also delves into non-verbal cues to gauge emotions in chickens. Our research has also explored chickens’ eye blinks and facial temperatures. How these might be reliable indicators of chickens’ emotional states is examined in a preprint (not-yet-peer-reviewed) paper.

 

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By using non-invasive methods like video and thermal imaging, the team have observed changes in temperature around the eye and head regions, as well as variations in blinking behavior, which appear to be responses to stress. These preliminary findings are opening new avenues in understanding how chickens express their feelings, both behaviorally and physiologically, providing us with additional tools to assess their well-being.

But, this project isn’t just about academic curiosity; it has real-world implications. In the agricultural sector, understanding chicken vocalisations can lead to improved farming practices. Farmers can use this knowledge to create better living conditions, leading to healthier and happier chickens. This, in turn, can impact the quality of produce, animal health, and overall farm efficiency.

The insights gained from this research can also be applied to other areas of animal husbandry, potentially leading to breakthroughs in the way we interact with and care for a variety of farm animals.

 

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By leveraging AI in this way we’re not only unlocking the secrets of avian communication but also setting new standards for animal welfare and ethical technological use. It’s an exciting time, as we stand on the cusp of a new understanding between humans and the animal world, all starting with the chicken.Cluck cluck cluck.

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