Artificial intelligence is helping us talk to animals (yes, really)

Welcome to WIRED UK. This site uses cookies to improve your experience and deliver personalised advertising. You can opt out at any time or find out more by reading our cookie policy. AI has helped us decode ancient languages, and now researchers are turning the same technique to help understand our pets Each time any of us uses a tool, such as Gmail, where there’s a powerful agent to help correct our spellings, and suggest sentence endings, there’s an AI machine in the background, steadily getting better and better at understanding language. Sentence structures are parsed, word choices understood, idioms recognised. That exact capability could, in 2020, grant the ability to speak with other large animals. Really. Maybe even faster than brain-computer interfaces will take the stage. Our AI-enhanced abilities to decode languages have reached a point where they could start to parse languages not spoken by anyone alive. Recently, researchers from MIT and Google applied these abilities to ancient scripts – Linear B and Ugaritic (a precursor of Hebrew) – with reasonable success (no luck so far with the older, and as-yet undeciphered Linear A). First, word-to-word relations for a spe...

In Japan, the Kit Kat Isn’t Just a Chocolate. It’s an Obsession.

The story of how Kit Kats, once a British chocolate export, became a booming business from Hokkaido to Tokyo — and changed expectations about what a candy bar could be. The story of how Kit Kats, once a British chocolate export, became a booming business from Hokkaido to Tokyo — and changed expectations about what a candy bar could be. The seven-story Don Quijote megastore in the Shibuya district of Tokyo is open 24 hours a day, but it’s hard to say when it’s rush hour, because there’s always a rush. A labyrinth of aisles leads to one soaring, psychedelic display after another presided over by cartoon mascots, including the mascot of Don Quijote itself: an enthusiastic blue penguin named Donpen who points shoppers toward toy sushi kits and face masks soaked with snail excretions and rainbow gel pens and split-toe socks. The candy section is vast, with cookies and cakes printed with Gudetama, Sanrio’s lazy egg character, and shiny packages of dehydrated, caramelized squid. It’s one of the few places where an extensive array of Japan’s many Kit Kat flavors are for sale. Though the chocolate bar is sold in more than 100 countries, including China, Thailand, India, Russia and the Un...