Google is known for creating successful Internet-related services and software products (e.g., Google Search Engine, Google Translate, Google News) to name a few. People are now talking about Google’s involvment in a research project for human-dolphin communication.
ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key.
Excerpt: Google’s Secretive Research … By A. C. Madrigal The Atlantic
“It started innocently enough, as rumors do: A friend of a friend and I were chatting about Google and he said that his buddy said that Google’s secretive research lab, Google X, was working on communicating with dolphins… Nowadays, stories surface about trained dolphins or dolphins seemingly trying to communicate with humans.
And so, when I heard about this Google X-dolphin thing, I was skeptical. Not because I didn’t think people at Google would be interested; on the contrary, dolphins’ clicks and squeaks seem like a perfect dataset on which they could run some of their “deep learning” algorithms.
Next thing I know, I’ve discovered that a site belonging to Google’s head of engineering, Ray Kurzweil, has linked to a scientific paper on a dolphin speaker’ to enhance study of dolphin vocalizations and acoustics. Dolphin researcher Denise Herzing gave a TED talk this year on dolphin communication, and it’s received more than half a million views… And maybe Google X wasn’t just decoding the dolphin speech. Maybe they were also playing it back to the animals.
I dashed off an email to Google X’s press person, hoping, praying she’d say that the company was, in fact, solving interspecies communication…The real truth turned out to be a little more complicated. It’s not that Google X is doing work on dolphin communication.
One of its close affiliates, wearable computing pioneer Thad Starner, who is a Technical Lead/Manager on Project Glass, is also working on human-dolphin communication in his academic role at Georgia Tech.
As a matter of fact, he’s working with Denise Herzing, the TED talker, on something called the Cetacean Hearing and Telemetry project, which would allow for *real-time* communication with free-swimming dolphins. This is a major difference from most would-be communication systems, which have relied on captive dolphins and large, clunky apparatuses.
Herzing and her colleagues have been working for more than 15 years to associate certain sounds—outside the dolphins’ normal vocabulary, but easy for them to mimic—with objects like seaweed, scarfs, and rope. Using that information, the Starner-Herzing system, which is still a prototype, is supposed to automatically translate when a dolphin uses the “word” for “rope” into the word “rope” for the diver in real-time.
Instead of pushing a keyboard through the water, the diver is wearing the complete system and it’s acoustic only. Basically the diver activates the sounds on a keypad on the forearm. The sounds go out through an underwater speaker. If a dolphin mimics the whistle or a human plays the whistle, the sounds come in and are localized through two hydrophones… The computer can localize who requested the toy, if there is a word match. The real power of this is in the real-time sound recognition, so we can respond to the dolphins quickly and accurately.”
Level: Intermediate -Advanced
Language Skills: Reading, writing, speaking and listening. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.
Time: Approximately 2 hours.
Materials: Student handouts (from this lesson) access to news article, and video.
Objective: Students will read the article with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through discussions, and writing.
I. Pre-Reading Activities
Analyzing headings and photos
Directions: Ask students to read the title of the post and of the actual article they are about to read. Then, have them examine the photos. Based on these sources, ask students to create a list of words and ideas that they think might be related to this article.
Directions: Have students use the KWL chart to list the information they already know about human-dolphin communication research. Later in the Post- Reading segment of the lesson, students can fill in what they’ve learned about the topic. Use this K-W-L chart from ReadWriteThink.
II. While Reading Activities
Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and the Word Map Education Oasis for assistance.
- It started innocently enough, as rumors do.
- We could start communicating more frequently with sea mammals.
- When I heard about this Google project I was skeptical.
- In a very real sense, this would be the fulfillment of Michels’ dream.
- I dashed off an email to Google.
- The initial response was discouraging.
- The real truth turned out to be a little more complicated.
- One of its close affiliates is also working with dolphins.
- Herzing and her colleagues have been working for more than 15 years to associate certain sounds.
- The diver is wearing the complete system that is acoustic only.
Directions: Review the following statements from the reading. If a statement is true they mark it T. If the statement is not applicable, they mark it NA. If the statement is false they mark it F and provide the correct answer.
- Google’s secretive research lab is named Google X-box.
- Google X was working on communicating with sharks.
- Doug Michels works for Google, and wanted to create a dolphin embassy
- The embassy never got built due to lack of funds.
- Michels also advocated building a water-filled, orbiting space station that would house a Supercomputer and a Population of Dolphins.
- Ray Kurzweil is Google’s CEO.
- Thad Starner, who is a Technical Manager on Project Glass, is working with Denise Herzing to communicate with dolphins.
- Denise Herzing has been working 6 years with dolphins.
- The Starner-Herzing system is supposed to help divers communicate with dolphins.
- The Starner-Herzing system is a great success.
Using Adjectives to describe pictures
Directions: Have students choose a picture from this lesson and write a descriptive paragraph using adjectives.
For a review of Adjectives visit ESL Voices Grammar. For your more advanced students, have them choose a photo and write a descriptive essay. They can share their essays with the class.
III. Post Reading Tasks
Reading Comprehension Check
Directions: Have students use the WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.
Who or What is the article about?
Where does the action/event take place?
When does the action/event take place?
Why did the action/event occur?
How did the action/event occur?
Directions: Have students fill in the last column of their charts.
Directions: Place students in groups and have them answer the following questions. Afterwards, have the groups share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the following discussion topics.
- The article states, “ Learning to communicate with dolphins could be seen as practice for any sort of communication with extraterrestrials.” How would you put this into your own words?
- In your opinion, what would be some advantages of human-dolphin communication? Can you think of any disadvantages?
- Are you interested in dolphin communication? Explain why or why not?
- What are the most significant ideas in this article?
IV. Listening Activity
Video Clip: Could we speak the language of dolphins? Denise Herzing -2013
This is a clip from a lecture presented by Dr. Denise Herzing on TED Talks.
While Listening Activities
Directions: Review the statements with students before the watching the video. As students listen to the video if a statement is true they mark it T. If the statement is not applicable, they mark it NA. If the statement is false they mark it F and provide the correct answer.
- Denise Herzing and her colleagues research dolphins in the Bahamas because of the warm weather.
- She’s been working with this particular group of dolphins for 28 years.
- Herzing is interested in dolphins because of their large numbers.
- According to Herzing two facts that researchers already know about dolphins is that they can hunt with tools and they demonstrate self-awareness in mirrors.
- While underwater, the researchers make their own rules.
- Atlantic Spotted dolphins have distinct developmental stages.
- These dolphins can live into their early 50s.
- Young dolphins use their teen-age years traveling to other areas.
- The female dolphins mature at 9, while the males mature at age 15.
- Dolphins use taste, vision, and touch for communication.
- Signature and Echolocation are types of dolphins.
- Bottle-nose are another type of dolphin in the Bahamas.
- The two groups synchronize when hunting sharks.
- The dolphin mimic the vocalizations and postures of the researchers.
Questions for Discussion
Directions: Place students in groups and have them discuss the following questions.
1. After listening to this video has your idea of human-dolphin communication changed in any way? If yes, describe in what way. If no, describe your original opinion.
2. Did you agree with everything that Denise Herzing said? Discuss which comments you agreed with and which ones you tended not to agree with. Explain why.
3. With your group members, make up questions that you would like to ask the speakers.
ANSWER KEY-Google and dolphins