By Elisa Black-Taylor
While this isn’t a cat technology story as of today, it will be in about six months. I wanted to share this new information with all of you because it can greatly improve the odds of finding a lost pet, and I know a lot of you also have dogs. It’s called Finding Rover, and is meant to add another way of locating a lost pet. It’s meant to complement, not replace, ID tags and micro-chipping.
The inventor of Finding Rover, John Polimeno, has promised us that a Finding Kitty app is in the works. The app, right now available only on iPhones, is already reuniting lost dogs with their owners.
Here’s a two minute video explaining how Finding Rover works.
John got the idea for helping lost dogs reunite with their owners a few years ago as he and his wife sat in a coffee shop. He spotted a poster advertising a lost dog, and reflected back on when their family dog went missing. It was devastating to his children, who cried over their missing family member.
That’s when John, who ran a construction company at the time, got the idea of using facial recognition software to find lost dogs. He began by contacting those involved in developing facial-recognition software. The problem with using it on dogs was their fur. There are so many color and texture variations that it made most facial-recognition software already on the market useless when trying to identify a dog.
Working with the Software Development Center at the University of Utah, John funded the research while the center worked on how the obstacle that so many different types and colors of fur created.
The programmers were able to develop an algorithm (a set of instructions for carrying out a procedure) called Pet Match that uses computer vision to pick up on key features that differentiated one dog from another. Eye color, eye shape, fur colors, breed and body size are all used in combination to create a unique “fingerprint,” and is 98% accurate on dogs that have been found using the software.
All you do is take a picture of your dog using your iPhone. There are circles on the screen that you place on the eyes and nose of your dog. Then the photo is uploaded into a central database. There’s also a “bark” button you can use to get your dog to look at the camera. I wonder whether the Finding Kitty app will have a “bird” button to get the cats attention.
Finding Rover can also be used if you find a lost dog and want to hunt for the owner. While the software works best with close up shots, if a dog can’t be safely approached, a full body shot can be taken and a match found. Not only are fur color, eye shape, etc. used, the software can search for lost dogs using a GPS type software that narrows down location.
One problem is not that many people are using Finding Rover since it’s such new technology. It’s currently only in use in the Bay area in California. John is touring the country on a Finding Rover bus to promote the new app nationwide. It will also help when the technology crosses over to Android and web users in a few months.
Many shelters are interested in using Finding Rover. Imagine how many pets can be reunited with their owners if everyone gets their pet entered into the system? All a shelter has to do is photograph the animal, then enter the information into a data base for a match. It’s estimated that only 20-25% of most dogs and cats turned into shelters are owner turn-in’s. That leaves 75% who are lost, with many owners unsure of where to search for a pet that goes missing.
Social media will also come into play with the software, allowing owners to share photos they take of their favorite pet with others. Everyone I know LOVES to share cat and dog photos on the internet. The Finding Rover app is compared to uploading a photo on Facebook and tagging it. This should make it simple to use.
What do you think of this new method of identifying lost dogs? Do you think it will be difficult using the same program to find a lost cat? To me, every cat has individual color markings, and may even be easier to guarantee a match than identifying a dog.
I’ll keep an eye out for when the app is released for use with cats. Personally, I think it’s great, and can’t wait until it comes out for Android phones. Finding Rover was reported on originally back in mid July, so look for it being available for cats around the first of the year.