Talk To a Dolphin and It Might One Day Talk Back

Google Translate has nothing on the Wild Dolphin Project which is developing a two-way communication system for dolphins. Crazy as it seems, the Florida-based group hopes to create a new language derived from the sounds of the animalsn in the wild.

Communicating with dolphins is nothing new — dolphins in captivity have interacted with their trainers since the 1960s. Smarter than your average redneck, dolphins can recognize over 100 words and respond to visual and audible commands from their trainers. Just look at Sea World performances for proof. But this showcase of underwater mammal talent may become an interactive exchange if Denise Herzing, founder of the Wild Dolphin Project, is successful in her latest endeavor.

Appropriately named, the Cetacean Hearing and Telemetry (CHAT) project aims to record and interpret dolphin sounds using a handheld computer and a pair of underwater microphones. Starting in the middle of this year, divers will use this underwater system to record dolphin sounds that are made in response to human interaction. The group has pulled in Thad Starner from the Georgia Institute of Technology to analyze these recordings using software to find distinct clicks and whistles that represent the core units of dolphin communication.

Once these unique patterns are identified, the researchers hope to teach the dolphins to associate these sound patterns with common behaviors and objects. If successful, a dolphin can be taught to say "seaweed" and the trainer will be able to respond appropriately. Imagine your astonishment when you meet one of these learned dolphins in the wild and it asks you for a sip of your best rum. [New Scientist]