We all love our pets; whether it’s a dog, cat, or the man’s faithful companion – a horse. More often than not we regard them as members of our family and wonder what the animals think about? What goes inside their mind. Are they happy or sad? Even with the help of many animal whisperers who claim to communicate with animals, we are unable to identify what really goes inside the animal’s mind. This is why Dr. Steve North from the University of Nottingham is developing a computer program that will have the ability to interpret what our four-legged friends are thinking and feeling.
Although recent research has claimed that horses have the capability to read human emotions, we humans are unable to determine when the horse is sick, suffering, or excited. Dr. Steve North, who is associated with the Mixed Reality Laboratory at the University of Nottingham, is all set to take the research a step forward. The Horse Automated Behavior Identification Tool (HABIT) is a new animal-computer interaction software which aims to interpret horse’s behavior from unconstrained (amateur) videos.
The study is being conducted by fellow enthusiasts who share a similar passion and loves horses as much as Dr. North. The team includes Dr. Mandy Roshier who specializes in anatomy and behavior at the Nottingham University, Dr. Carol Hall of Equation Science, and Dr. Clara Mancini, who is working for the Open University as a lecturer in computer interaction design. The horse whisperers believe that the new software can be eventually used in farms, zoos, houses with pets, and in veterinary settings. They are also hoping that HABIT will help them identify what the animal is feeling when taken into new surroundings.
Software that can analyze human emotions has well been established. But the study of computer-animal relation is still in the emerging phase. Dr. North and his team believe that the technology which is used as a norm in our society nowadays shouldn’t be limited to humans only. According to Dr. North, “Due to our anthropocentric view, we are unable to understand the role of non-humans in the multispecies world.” With HABIT, he aims to identify the behavior of horses as well as other non-human species and correctly identify if there is something that is troubling them.
The experts of Nottingham University from different fields of research and science including equitation science, animal-computer interaction, animal behavior, ethnology, and biomedical engineering are aiming to enhance the communication with horses through the new product. Let’s hope that the new technology is successful in understanding the emotional state of all non-human species. After all, the horse whisperers of Nottingham love their horses just like us!