Every comic strip portrays cats as evil masterminds, just waiting for their opportunity to take over, but dogs are typically shown as loveable idiots.

What if there was a way to know if those comic strips are right? 

In June, The Dallas Express reported on a team from the University of Texas at Arlington that is using modern technology to help translate the sounds dogs make into human speech. The team is looking for word-like patterns contained in dog barks.

But maybe they are barking up the wrong tree.  

Fox Weather recently covered a story out of the University of Michigan, where researchers are using AI with great success to learn information about dogs based on their barks:

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Researchers at the University of Michigan are studying how artificial intelligence technology can be used to understand a dog’s communication.

Scientists are developing tools to distinguish whether a dog’s bark shows playfulness or aggression. They also want to gather more information from the dog’s vocalizations, such as its age, breed, and sex.

“By using speech processing models initially trained on human speech, our research opens a new window into how we can leverage what we built so far in speech processing to start understanding the nuances of dog barks,” said Rada Mihalcea, director of U-M’s AI laboratory.

Researchers studied vocalizations from 74 dogs in different contexts.

The study found that AI models originally trained on human speech can be used as a starting point to train new systems that target animal communication.

“There is so much we don’t yet know about the animals that share this world with us,” Mihalcea adds. “Advances in AI can be used to revolutionize our understanding of animal communication, and our findings suggest that we may not have to start from scratch.”