At first I was amused when I heard about the DogStar TailTalk device — which fits on a dog’s tail and sends computerized information about a dog’s emotional state. At first I thought, “But don’t we already know a dog is happy when she wags her tail?” Then I was fascinated by the thinking behind the device, which was created by two of the first graduates of the new Cornell Tech graduate school. They based their design on the premise that people would be better able to read a dog’s specific emotions with a little technological help in deciphering the way she wags her tail. The device includes a lightweight sensor that wraps around a dog’s tail and monitors movement with an internal accelerometer and gyroscope. “Tail wagging is asymmetric and includes complex emotional signals that the human eye cannot recognize,” according to the co-creators Mike Karp and Yannis Tsampalis, who consulted with professors from the prestigious College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University. They learned that certain types of tail movement are specific emotional indicators. “Wagging to the left, for instance, indicates negative feelings like fear, anxiety or aggression. Wagging to the right suggests positive feelings like happiness or excitement,” says Mike.

The DogStar TailTalk gathers information that is then beamed wirelessly to a phone app, which translates the dog’s tail movements into a kind of emotional readout.

A new crowdfunding campaign at Indiegogo promises to deliver the world’s first tail-wagging monitor that actually translates canine emotions.

It seems like the British and Irish are besotted with this concept: within only the first few days of crowd-sourcing, DogStar got a mountain of press!

You can hear my interview with Mike Karp about Dogstar TailTalk on this week’s Dog Talk®.

—Tracie Hotchner
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