Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Talk To The Hand

Technical, shmecknical.

So I had this idea. Hey.

Everybody these days has some kind of pocket phone. Smart phones. Smartphones. Carry them everywhere. So, jeez, I think, what about backpackers?

You go just about anywhere on the web and you see still photos, you see video clips, you read about apps. People use phones for GPS maps, snapping photos, recording how they cook supper, besides calling home every now and then. Or calling for help sometimes.

They even write blog posts and upload them, like wherever they have enough juice left and can get a signal.

And then there's Siri. You've heard about Siri.

Sure, there will be other services like this all too soon, but it got me thinking. Siri isn't just a Speech Interpretation and Recognition Interface. Not anymore. And not just a way to kill time when you're lonely and want to hear your phone talk.

Siri is more like a way of approaching reality.

So then, see, I figure, the next step is some kind of smartphone app that will let you talk to animals.

This could be really handy for hikers and backpackers. Way beyond the usual map, altimeter, and weather forecasting apps. Way beyond Siri even. Finding the next trail junction is great, but how many backpackers need only that?

So I got a copy of "How To Write an iPhone App in 14 Days", registered as a developer, learned Objective C, and got busy. Surprisingly, it all seemed pretty easy, though I went way over the two week limit.

So then, what about testing it? Well, what's the smartest animal on the planet?

Not my hamster. He's fun but, honestly, he'll never invent cold fusion.

Instead I headed to the University of Marine Science and Technical Wizardry, which (lucky for me), is practically right around the corner.

They have dolphins.

I went to see them, and took along some fish just in case.

And guess what? My app worked. I pre-recorded some basic phrases, and when I played them for the dolphins, the dolphins squeaked back into the phone.

So far so good. I was on a roll.

Then the phone told me what they said.

This was a real eye opener. Here I had spent a bunch of time, learned to program, bought a phone and all ($399.99 for a two-year plan), and these dolphins were laughing at me.

What they said was "You know how to whistle, don't you, clown? You just put your lips together and blow."

Technology meant nothing to them. Nothing. And they are probably the most advanced species on the planet without opposable thumbs.


I guess some things you have to do the old-fashioned way, so now I sit in my back yard and listen to the birds. Sometimes I tweet the wrong thing and they fly over and crap on me, but sometimes I get it right too.

And I'm on much better terms now with Ed, my hamster. He's teaching me snuffle-talk. No batteries needed.

And the cost? Just peanuts.


Device May Let Humans Communicate With Dolphins

Contacting An Animal From A Distance

Opossum Massage. Wrong!

Opossum Massage. Right! (video)