Facial recognition technology goes to the dogs

Fetch! app uses facial recognition technology to match dogs (or people) with dog breed information.


Remember the classic Disney film "101 Dalmations" and how all of the animated dogs resembled their owners? Well, Microsoft has just released a new smartphone app that will help you figure out what kind of dog you are.

Fetch! is a facial recognition app that uses your iPhone camera or personal photo library to identify and classify dogs by breed. You can use it to learn more about any dog by uploading a photo. But it doesn't stop there. The app also matches human personality types with specific breeds, so in case you were curious what kind of dog you'd be, or whether your best friend is more of a basset hound or a shih tzu, you can upload human photos to determine what breeds correspond to different kinds of people.

"There was an interest in creating a framework that would allow you to take a domain -- in our case, dogs -- and recognize numerous classes, such as breeds. We were interested in enabling an app to allow you to make object recognition extraordinary, fun, and surprising," Mitch Goldberg, development director at Microsoft Research, said in a news release. "We wanted to bring artificial intelligence to the canine world. We wanted to show that object recognition is something anyone could understand and interact with."

The app was developed through Microsoft Garage, where projects are cultivated by small teams across the company. It is available through the Apple App Store and on the website what-dog.net. The app release is timely in that it coincides with the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, which runs from Feb. 15 to 16.

The app's recognition capability is fairly sophisticated.

"If you want to take photos of dogs, it will tell you what dog breed it is, if it's one of our supported breeds," Goldberg said. "If I choose to take a photograph of a flower, it'll say, 'No dogs found! Hmmm... This looks more like...flower?' But if you take a picture of a person, it'll kick into its hidden fun mode. And in a playful way, it'll communicate to you not only what type of dog it thinks you are, but also why. It's fun to see if the app knows it's not a dog. A lot of the time, it'll tell you what that image is. When there's not a dog, you still want to use it."

Anyone can try the app out -- even CBS News reporters.

Different pictures of a person may not produce the same results. Depending on what image you use, you could be classified as a different dog.

"What makes this unique is the combination of machine intelligence and expert data about dog breeds, which helped us be more accurate. We invested in dog experts in making sure we had correct images for each breed," said Javier Alvarez-Valle, senior software development engineer on the team that built Fetch!.

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