The Chinese AI startup Megvii, which is backed by Alibaba, has launched a new technology to identify dogs by their nose prints in order to provide an accurate and more pet-friendly ID system than ones currently existing, like the microchip.
The technology uses facial recognition technology to identify specific markers on a dog’s nose for identification.
What makes a dog’s nose print so special? Like the human fingerprint, it’s the one part of a dog’s body that is unique and doesn’t change with age. “That means there are no two dogs in the world with the same nose print,” a Megvii spokesperson told This Dog’s Life. “As the most unique biometric feature of a dog, its nose print holds the key to identifying it.”
To use the technology, owners snap a few photos of their pup using a smartphone camera, ensuring they are getting various angles to document the nose print correctly.
“To identify or authenticate a dog, an owner simply needs to upload a photo, and the algorithm will automatically complete a series of steps including AI matching and fast checking as well as emergency response when needed, to quickly confirm a dog’s identity,” says the Megvii spokesperson.
Megvii notes that part of the inspiration for developing this technology is the increasing number of Chinese people who have pets. Indeed, a white paper from 2018 puts the number of dog owners at 34 million, a substantial increase form 2010.
“The increasing number of pets also comes with the potential for social incidents and disputes, including physical harm,” the Megvii spokesperson says. “This has driven the demand for better management of pets so as to minimize disturbance of other people and achieve happy co-living.”
Of course, Megvii is aware that this system could also revolutionize the identification of lost pets by creating an easily accessible database of individual dog’s nose prints. Luckily, nose printing a dog doesn’t require an old-fashioned ink pad. When a loose dog on the street is found, all a person would need to do is take a picture of the dog’s nose and check it against the company’s database.
“We spent almost a year collecting data and training our models in order to develop a system that can effectively identify and authenticate dogs as part of our ultimate efforts to achieve harmonious living together with our four-legged friends,” the spokesperson says.
One challenge the company faced in developing the app’s algorithm is how difficult is to collect high-quality data as dogs often move. Sometimes, this resulted in blurred images or inadequate resolution. “The algorithm model must have a high level of accuracy due to the similarity of dog nose prints,” says the spokesperson.
So far, the company has only developed a demo of the technology. “However, once our technology is adopted by institutions, dog owners will be able to register their pets by simply taking photos or videos on their mobile phones,” the spokesperson says.
It will be effective, and easy: sit, stay, say cheese!