May 10, 2002 7:35 AM PDT

Gadget converts woofs into words

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Dr. Dolittle might have not have been able to get animals to talk so that other people could hear them, but perhaps Japanese toy maker Takara can.

The company on Thursday unveiled a gadget called Bowlingual, which scrutinizes and translates a dog's barks into expressions such as "I've had enough" or "I'm a little bored, let's play."

The gizmo was tested on a dog at the Tokyo Toy Show, an annual event featuring electronic games, collectibles and dolls from all over the world. The four-day event ends Sunday.

Bowlingual consists of a wireless microphone, which is attached to a dog's collar, and a terminal that analyzes and matches each "woof" with a set of preprogrammed phrases.

According to Takara, the device detects feelings--including happiness, frustration and sadness--and displays the associated expressions on the terminal's screen. Bowlingual can also be used to record a dog's mood throughout the day when owners are away from home.

A prototype of the device was unveiled last August with the intention of helping dog owners better comprehend their pets.

Bowlingual has a recommended retail price of $100 (12,800 yen). The company could not confirm commercial availability.

It's not known whether Takara is adapting the device to be used with cats.

CNETAsia's Irene Tham reported from Singapore.


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