How’s my pig? Using facial recognition technology to improve animal wellbeing

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The work of Professor Melvyn Smith and Professor Lyndon Smith of the Centre for Machine Vision, Bristol Robotics Laboratory has been featured in the news this week.

They are using facial recognition technology to assess the emotional state of pigs, with hopes that the project, based at the Rural College (SRUC) Pig Research Centre in Scotland, will lead to improvements in animal wellbeing.

Pigs communicate with each other using facial expressions, so researchers are now capturing 3D and 2D facial images of the breeding sow population to be analysed at UWE’s Centre for Machine Vision, where techniques for automatic identification of a range of emotions are under development.

“Machine vision technology offers the potential to realise a low-cost, non-intrusive and practical means to biometrically identify individual animals on the farm.

“Our work has already demonstrated a 97% accuracy at facial recognition in pigs. Our next step will be, for the first time, to explore the potential for using machine vision to automatically recognise facial expressions that are linked with core emotion states, such as happiness or distress, in the identified pigs.”

Professor Melvyn Smith, UWE Bristol

Lyndon has been filmed by the BBC this week, giving a simulated demo of pig face recognition using deep learning, while the story has been featured online by the BBC, The Times, the Daily Mail, the Metro, the Irish Times and the Irish Examiner, among others and covered on Radio 4’s Farming Today (starting at 9:47).

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