Jul 15 · 4 min read

“Who let the dogs out? Who? Who? Who? Who?” The 2000 Baha Men song was a fun hit, but it’s no joke how anxious dog owners can become when their precious pets go missing. Although there are many means for identifying and locating a missing person — police and amber alerts, photos and biometrics such as fingerprints and even facial recognition — few of these resources are available for finding a lost dog, and about 75 percent of dogs in the USA are not microchipped. In the pursuit of a reliable doggie ID method, AI startup Megvii has introduced a novel nose print recognition system.

Similar to human fingerprints, dog nose prints are unique and remain unchanged over the life of the animal. According to the Calgary Humane Society, the Canadian Kennel Club has been leveraging the unique features of nose prints for dog identification since 1938. The traditional method for obtaining a nose print is to physically stain a dog’s nose then imprint it onto a piece of paper.

With the help of AI-driven pattern recognition and image processing technologies, nose print recognition can capture, describe and classify a dog’s nose print and confirm dog identity by comparing the similarities between nose print characteristics. The method is accurate and less invasive than other approaches to dog identification such as DNA tests and microchip implants.

Moreover improvements in camera resolution have done away with the need for the messy stain-and-imprint dog nose capturing method. A dog owner can simply zoom in on their pet’s snout with a smartphone camera and snap a clear picture. The system then detects nose print landmarks and sends the extracted nose patterns to a database where an AI system can perform information matching and quick verification to detect the identity of the dog.

The Megvii method is designed to cover two scenarios: 1 vs 1 Comparison — “Is it the same dog?”; and 1 vs N Search — “Which nose print belongs to this dog?” The company says the technology reaches 95 percent accuracy in the first scenario, and “high accuracy” in the latter (as long as the dog is registered in the database).

Megvii isn’t the first company came up with idea of using dog nose print recognition to track our four-legged companions. A US patent for a nose-based “Pet identification system and method” was granted in 2005 to the company SNOUTSCAN LLC. “The system includes methods to obtain accurate noseprints either by chemical transfer system or with closeup photography for entry into a database…To recover a lost dog, the system is scanned either by identification number, if known, or by using the pattern recognition software to compare a noseprint of a found dog with those in the noseprint database to identify and locate the owner of the pet.

No matter how accurate and convenient the AI-powered dog snout identification system is, naturally it’s best to make sure family pets are happy at home and leashed in public so you’ll you’ll never need to ask in a panic “who let the dogs out?”

Journalist: Fangyu Cai | Editor: Michael Sarazen

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