Technology knows what the donkey says

Donkey speech translated into human language for London rides

A new summer attraction in London offers donkey rides with technology-based translation of donkey sounds into human sentences.

The technology, developed by donkey whisperer Mark Ineson from Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, translates not only the donkey’s ee-aws but also their facial expressions.

"We’ve been asked for all sorts of crazy contraptions over the years but getting donkeys to talk was a whole new challenge for us,” said Sean Miles, head of production at Design Works, who developed the system together with Ineson. “While the technology that identifies sound as a trigger was relatively achievable, figuring out the animals’ emotions was much harder.”

According to Chloe Couchman, a spokeswoman at Merlin Events, which is organising the Donkey Rides at London’s Jubilee Gardens, the technology analyses unique sounds, frequencies and vibrations of the ee-awws. Each ee-aww is turned into a unique phrase reflecting the donkey’s feelings.

Mark Ineson, whose company Real Donkeys owns 17 animals, has been studying donkeys for more than 20 years. He says the donkeys are extremely emotional and have many things in common with dogs.

"(We) work very closely with them, day in day out, and pick up on their mannerisms, their emotions, what they're thinking basically," Ineson said.

Families will be able to book free rides for children on the "talking donkeys" in Jubilee Gardens until Thursday.

Some of Ineson's donkeys have won awards such as 'Best Beach Donkey'.

"As you can see above," Ineson wrote on his website, referencing a photograph of him kissing a donkey, "I love my donkeys very much and would never swap them for the world."

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