WGSN trend: The ‘talking’ killer whale and an ‘interspecies internet’ future

From imitations of ‘hello’ and ‘Amy’, to a shrill ‘one, two three’, Wikie the killer whale is a quick learner.

Taught to speak human words through her blowhole, she’s the first of her kind to imitate the human voice – and it could hint to a more connected future between species.

Just last week, WGSN’s Insight team reported on An Interspecies Internet– a look at a future where we could (genuinely) be understanding and communicating with animals.

From tech-savvy Millennials choosing to ‘parent’ pets through to the sheer ubiquity of voice assistant technology, the drivers for further research around this already exist.

Lux Capital’s Josh Wolfe believes that the “interspecial internet” (talking to and understanding animals) will be a key, long-shot investment area in 2018. “The odds it’ll be successful – as with everything we fund – are very low,” he told Wired in December 2017. “But if it works, I believe it will be a decabillion company”.

Consumer Demand

talking killer whale

The pet care market is ever-growing. In the UK alone, the PFMA’s Pet Data Report 2017 estimates that there are around 8.5m dogs and 8m cats kept as household pets.

WGSN Insight has also tracked the global rise of the Millennial pet parenting in our report Pets Over People, where, increasingly, Millennials are opting for pet ownership over having children.

As we invest more (both financially and emotionally) into our pets, a desire to connect with them is understandable – and sets the stage for some (slightly mind-blowing) technological innovation.



Research and Innovation

talking killer whale

This consumer demand means that any technological developments could have a real and viable market.

Whilst, until now, physical products have been failures or, in the case of Amazon, April Fools’ jokes, there is now some concrete research laying the foundations for an ‘interspecies internet’ future.

In July 2017, just months after it’s ‘Petlexa’ joke, Amazon commissioned a report, co-authored by futurist William Higham, which cited research conducted by Con Slobodchikoff at Northern Arizona University.

His focus? The language of prairie dogs, using AI to interpret individual calls. Building on that, he’s now working on a device that will, in theory, enable users to directly communicate with their dogs.

Whilst the near future looks to basic ‘conversations’ with Wikie the killer whale – it could open up the unchartered area of animal communication, and could hint to some pretty staggering developments in the future.


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