This week, researchers in Germany published a paper suggesting that dogs may be able to pick out sounds from objects that people have picked up and communicate.
The research, published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition, was based on a study of 11 dogs that were trained to recognise different sounds.
The researchers asked the dogs to pick up various objects and then to follow a sequence of sounds.
When the dogs were shown a sequence containing two distinct sounds, they would recognise the sounds that the sequence was followed by and try to follow the sound sequence.
“The dogs’ responses were much faster than when we had just one sound,” Dr. Martin Röttgen, lead author of the study, told New Scientist.
In fact, the dogs could distinguish between sound sequences from about a third of the objects they were shown.
The dogs showed the same abilities in another experiment that asked them to distinguish between different types of music played on a violin.
Dr. Rörtgen said that these results were a first step towards developing a system that would help dogs recognise and respond to different types and shapes of sounds that people play.
“Our aim is to build a system which will be able learn to recognise a variety of sounds in the world,” he said.
But how would a system like this work in the real world?
Dr. Richard Schumacher, a neuroscientist at the University of Cambridge who has studied the brain’s response to sound in humans, said that it might be difficult to build such a system.
“I don’t think we have a way to test this, we don’t know how it works,” he told New Science.
“But it’s certainly plausible.”
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