Ever wish you were Dr. Dolittle? Well, a local university project could help unlock the ability to converse with animals.

A team from the University of Texas at Arlington is using modern technology to help translate the sounds dogs make into human speech.

Kenny Zhu, a UTA professor of computer science and engineering, is heading up the project, which found financial support through a three-year grant of $483,804 in taxpayer money from the U.S. National Science Foundation’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates program.

“My research is in natural language processing for humans, so why not look at how animals communicate?” Zhu said in a press release.

As Zhu explained in a recent interview with WFAA, people have long wanted to understand what, if anything, animals are trying to express. Many studies have attempted to collect data on animal vocalizations to identify patterns that can help break through the communication barrier.

Zhu and his team of 14 are hoping to find success by using machine learning and AI technology to translate dog sounds collected from YouTube and other sources into phonetic representations.

He told WFAA that the team has collected over 30,000 videos of dogs so far. Dog sounds from these videos are isolated into audio files so that AI technology can analyze them and then break them down into syllables and symbols, very much like an alphabet.

“We’ve been able to discover certain word-like patterns in the dog’s so-called language, but we are still trying to verify if these are really words,” Zhu said.

Around 10 hours of dog sounds have been transcribed as of early June.

Interestingly enough, there appear to be differences between dogs’ vocalizations in different parts of the world. For instance, Japanese Shiba Inu dogs seem to have a higher pitch and faster pace than American Shiba Inu dogs.

While some may think researchers are barking up the wrong tree by trying to speak dog, Zhu believes his project holds promise.

In any event, opening communication channels between humans and animals would be a game-changer in various ways. For instance, there is growing evidence that animals can sense seismic activity.

“The knowledge we can get from animals can be hugely beneficial to society,” Zhu said, per WFAA.