Researchers at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm have teamed up with AI language analysis company Gavagai AB to build a dolphin language dictionary

The startup Gavagai is a spinoff company from the Swedish Institute of Computer Science, and has already successfully learned 40 human languages.

The project plan is to track and record communication between a group of bottlenose dolphins located in a wildlife park outside of Stockholm, Sweden for the next four years. The team will use Gavagai’s AI software to build a database of dolphin language.

If successful, the benefits of the results are two-fold – there are obvious scientific implications for researchers and zoologists to better understand the animals, but it will also expand the current capabilities of AI for businesses.

Dolphins do have a complex communication system featuring various clicks and whistles that has fascinated researchers for decades. Combined with their heightened intelligence, dolphins have been trained by the U.S. Navy to perform tasks like detecting mines as part of the U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program at the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR).

Last year, a paper authored by Russian scientists claimed to have recorded evidence of two dolphins “speaking” to each other. The recordings resembled a human conversation – the pair took turns expressing sounds without interrupting each other.

But many marine researchers were not convinced that the published paper’s findings showed conclusive evidence that dolphins have their own spoken language.

The latest Swedish project may help settle the debate by 2021.