“They tend to use different types of melody in their meows when they try to signal different things,” said Susanne Schötz, a phonetician at Lund University in Sweden who led the study as part of a research project called Meowsic.
And in a 2019 study, Stavros Ntalampiras, a computer scientist at the University of Milan, demonstrated that algorithms could automatically distinguish between the meows that cats made in three situations: when they were being brushed, while waiting for food or after being left alone in a strange environment.
MeowTalk, whose founders enlisted Dr. Ntalampiras after the study appeared, expands on this research, using algorithms to identify cat vocalizations made in a variety of contexts.
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The app detects and analyzes cat utterances in real-time, assigning each one a broadly defined “intent,” such as happy, resting, hunting or “mating call.” It then displays a conversational, plain English “translation” of whatever intent it detects, such as Momo’s beleaguered “Let me rest.” (Oddly, none of these translations appear to include “I will chew off your leg if you do not feed me this instant.”)