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The Cautionary Tale of “No More Woof,” a Crowdfunded Gadget to Read Your Dog’s Thoughts

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When Scandinavian engineers launched their crowdfunding campaign for “No More Woof” in December 2013, they talked a good game.

They would build a wearable gadget that you could slip onto your dog’s head, which would read its doggy brainwaves and translate its mental state into human language. They’d do this by applying EEG brain-scanning technology (standard stuff for humans) to our furry friends, thus detecting neural patterns that correlate to sentiments such as “I’m tired,” “I’m hungry,” “I’m excited,” and “Who are you?” So said the Indiegogo page put forward by a group called the Nordic Society for Invention and Discovery (NSID). They promised to deliver by May 2014.

Publications around the world went wild for this idea. The coverage from ABC News is a typical example of the breathless enthusiasm: “Talking Dog Device Ready to Hit Market Soon.” Some of the many other examples come from Mashable, Engadget, CNET, the South China Morning Post, Fast Company, and Time

It may not shock you, savvy reader, to learn that the campaign never delivered. The story of No More Woof sums up the current state of neurotech products intended for consumers (as opposed to devices built for the medical establishment): the ideas are audacious, exciting, and often infeasible.