Ruff Translation

updated 09/01/2003 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/01/2003 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Ever think your dog is trying to communicate something? Not just "Feed me!" or "Walk me!" or even "Timmy's down a well again!" but complex, nuanced ideas that express the emotional core of its doggishness? Meet the Bow-Lingual, a $120 electronic gadget that purports to translate Rover's barks into standard English.

A huge hit in Japan since it was launched last year, Bow-Lingual is the brainchild of Masahiko Kajita, a product developer at the Takara toy company in Tokyo, who honed the device with the help of an animal behaviorist. A small wireless microphone on the dog's collar beams data from the bark to a handheld receiver, which translates the sound using a 200-phrase dog vocabulary. "Bow-Lingual," says Kajita, 42, "doesn't translate barks into mere words but rather emotions." Thus the LCD might display phrases such as "What's that? How exciting!" or, in cases of real excitement, "I feel like dancin'!"

Kajita, who plans to introduce Meow-Lingual for cats soon, has lofty hopes for Bow-Lingual. "I hope it gets different people talking, brings them together as one, even spreads peace," he says. Right. Now if only it would stop Fido from drinking out of the toilet.

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