Cell phone app understands your cat’s facial expressions

AI in cellphone app can read feline facial expressions
AI in cellphone app can read feline facial expressions. Image: The Times.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

A cell phone (smartphone) app, in development, but in beta version called Tably, uses artificial intelligence (AI) to be able to read a domestic cat’s facial expressions to tell the owner how their cat feels. It is an interesting development on the back of previous studies which showed that domestic cats do have subtle facial expressions particularly when they feel pain. Domestic cats’ faces were mapped very precisely to see the relationship between various elements of the face and how they moved when the cat was in pain or distress.

Cat suffering from pain
Cat suffering from acute pain showing the facial expression compared to a pain free cat and one suffering moderate pain.

The app has been developed by an animal health company in Canada. Essentially you photograph your cat with your cell phone and provided the photograph is of sufficient quality the app reads it and provides you with an analysis. It works by picking up various points on a cat’s face as mentioned in those previous studies.

Cat owners will be able to can tell whether your cat is happy or unhappy. Perhaps the better description would be whether your cat is relaxed and content or in pain. That would be my assessment.

Tably in use
Tably in use. Photo: Wild Rose Cat Clinic in Calgary.

One of the previous studies referred to was published in 2019 in the journal Scientific Reports. It was conducted by Canadian researchers. They produced a “feline grimace scale” or FGS. It’s a reliable tool for assessing acute pain felt by domestic cats.

Picture of a cat in considerable pain is useful for cat owners

Until around the 1950s, even veterinarians were unsure whether domestic cats felt pain. I am generalising because clearly many veterinarians understood that they did but not until recent times have cats been routinely treated with specialist painkillers after operations such as declawing. They focus on this nowadays and use it as a marketing tool.

We now know better but, to be honest, it is common sense that cats feel pain. Although, as we all know they tend to hide it with a slightly inscrutable appearance and the need to physically hide themselves away. When cats are in pain, they tend to become passive and hide. They don’t do what humans do and scream and shout and tell the world that they are in pain!

In words, when a cat is in pain they have a taut muzzle, squinted eyes, ears rotating outwards or slightly stretched whiskers.

The creation of the app is the result of a collaboration between an artificial intelligence company (Alta ML) and The Bar G, which is a group of companies involved in a variety of activities ranging from sleep gadgets to animal health. Machine learning and AI was used in the creation of this technology. Developers introduced a lengthy series of images of cats to the software for it to memorise, understand and analyse.

They say that the accuracy is as high as 97% provided the image quality of the cat is good.

The app on sylvester.ai today. And you can download it: “Download the open beta today and start making more informed cat health decisions”.

Comment: it’s a good idea, obviously, because anything that can help cat owners understand their cat better must be to the good. I feel that many cat owners are not observant enough and do not attempt to analyse their cat’s feelings when distressed. You don’t really need this app if you are an excellent cat owner who is observant and educated. If not, it will certainly help to become a better cat guardian.

Source: The Times hardcopy. My appreciation.

2 thoughts on “Cell phone app understands your cat’s facial expressions”

  1. Hahah, that is amazing! How they even came up with it? Now there is really a lot of useful software, but if we are talking about small companies and startups, then I advise you to pay attention to software development for startups. I am also creating soft for my business. It is much more convenient when you hire specialists who develop software specifically for your needs. It helps to avoid problems in the future and non-compliance of the app or site with the company’s requirements


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