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Expanding Facial Recognition Databases with Animal Faces

Facial recognition technology is touted as a next-gen way to bolster safety across the globe. Targeted for use in applications such as law enforcement and security, current facial recognition systems are already quite sophisticated. Despite their controversy, they've already proven their use in tracking, identifying, and helping law enforcement officers catch the criminals they're after.

Finding a Brand New Application for Facial Recognition

But facial recognition technology can be used in other ways, too – including tracking and monitoring the movements of wildlife. In fact, a brand new software package, known as BearID, is already used to track and monitor the movements of grizzly bears within the region of British Columbia, Canada.

Their software is really quite clever. It used the databases of pre-existing AI software to compile nearly 5,000 unique images of grizzly bears, which are then used to identify unique scars, nicks, and other markings on the bears' faces. The system has successfully recognized 132 bears thus far.

Specifically, BearID relied on the database of a silly app known as Dog Hipsterizer, which is commonly used to attach virtual mustaches to the faces of dogs. The fun and creative images are then posted, typically by the dog's owner, on modern social media sites like Instagram Twitter, and Facebook.

Another app, known as CattleTracs, provides a similar platform that is used in the tracking and monitoring of cattle. With this software, anyone can take a picture of their cows and post them to the online database. The program relies on data, such as GPS coordinates and dates, to track individual cows over the course of time.

Joe Hoagland, the cattle rancher who originally had the idea for CattleTracs, explained the usefulness of his app by saying: ''"Being able to trace that diseased animal, find its source, quarantine it, do contact tracing — all the things we're talking about with coronavirus are things we can do with animals, too."''

Cattle in particular tend to come in contact with many different people, places, and other cows. They're often processed quickly through pastures, feed lots, and meat packing plants, and it can be incredibly cumbersome to monitor and track their movements along the way. Software like CattleTracs makes this task exponentially easier for everyone involved.

In order to turn his idea into a reality, Joe enlisted the help of a Kansas State University professor as well as a group of specialists in disciplines like veterinary science and information technology.

Better Than the Alternatives

While experts agree that animal facial recognition still has a long way to go, some of these early efforts hold a lot of potential for the future. If nothing else, many agree that digital imaging is a much easier, less invasive, and more efficient than traditional methods like electronic collars, chip implants, and tags.

The monitoring and tracking of wildlife is invaluable when it comes to species conservation. It can also help identify potentially dangerous or unhealthy animals, such as those who are infected with certain diseases, and help prevent them from coming into contact with humans and even other wildlife.


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