MeowTalk: can this app translate what your cat says?

Who hasn’t dreamed of knowing what goes through a cat’s mind when he wakes you up in the middle of the night? Or when he comes to see you meowing.

Does he want to take a stroll? A cuddle maybe? On app stores, several applications offer to translate what your pet is saying. So far, none of them has taken this difficult task seriously until Meowtalk.

A former Amazon developer has discovered a magic trick to enhance communication between people and cats. He developed the Meowtalk program in 2020 to translate the meows of our furry friends.

The app analyzes the sounds emitted by cats to translate what they say into human language. It offers nine different interpretations, such as “I’m hungry,” “I’m in love,” “I’m in agony,” or “I want to go outside.”

An app to strengthen the cat-human bond

Javier Sanchez, the project’s engineer (who had previously worked on Alexa, Amazon’s virtual personal assistant), described it to technology news site Geek Wire as a method to:

“Help some people improve the relationships they have with their cats.”  

Having launched his pet project during the Covid quarantine, Sanchez’s approach was in tune with the current climate.

With the assistance of scientific reports and artificial intelligence, Javier Sanchez designed his new software. However, the developer clarifies that Meowtalk does not offer in-depth interpretations of a cat’s meows, saying:

“Cats don’t speak to one another or exchange words. In the wild they never meow, only with humans, cats communicate with humans by meowing.”

For Sanchez, it’s another chance to work with voice technology — even if that voice is just meowing.

When users believe they understand what their cat is requesting, they can establish cat profiles and assign meows to new labels in MeowTalk. The next time the app hears that same sound, it will make accurate guesses.

What the future holds for Meowtalk

More ambitious ventures are under development. There are plans to add additional scenarios to the app and create advanced devices like a smart collar.

This collar would interpret the cat’s meow and play it back with a human voice. The collar may also be programmed to send a text message to a person inside if the cat is stuck outside and needs to be let in.

Despite its promises, Meowtalk is not without its detractors as many see it as a mere artifice.

A French cat behaviorist shared her skepticism via Ouest France. She explained:

“I think it’s a gimmick because different species meow in different ways. It seems difficult to me to interpret without a context because you must always take it into account (…) They are not particularly social creatures. Cats also utilize meowing to communicate with us because they recognize how effective it is for grabbing our attention.”

In the meantime, Meowtalk is currently available on Android and iOS, cat owners can download it and reach their own verdict. So far, the program has registered more than 5 million downloads on the Playstore.

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