A Chinese company that develops human face recognition technology has created software that can identify your dog by her noseprint. Is it a handy tool to reunite dogs and their owners, or a blow to canine rights?
By, 17 Jul 2019
Just like a snowflake or a human fingerprint, a dog’s noseprint is unique.
An artificial intelligence business named Megvii has now developed software to identify dogs from their snouts electronically so that strays no longer need to get their nose all inky using traditional noseprinting methods (painting the dog’s nose black and pressing it onto white cardboard).
Megvii’s software instead allows owners and authorities to get a snapshot of a dog’s nose with a smart phone. They claim this image could later be used to identify your dog with 95% accuracy.
You my dawg
By taking photos of your dog’s nose from multiple angles, its unique ‘finger’-print can be kept on file so you can check it if you ever suspect her of being replaced by an imposter. There is also talk of a snout database against which a lost dog’s nose could be checked so as to reunite dogs with owners from all around the country.
The inventors claim that the technology is a great way to identify dogs without using invasive chip technology.
Facial recognition software has already been used to identify 15,000 lost dogs according to developers of a rival app named Finding Rover. But true dog lovers know the best way to prove a dog belongs with you is to stand some distance away, slap your thighs, and yell “come to Mama” until the dog gallops along the street and into your loving arms.
Sausages in dystopia
Like all technology that promises to make life easier by storing more of our personal data (or that of our dogs), there are sinister undertones to noseprint technology. The Chinese government has been cracking down on unsociable dog behaviour and could use noseprints to connect mischievous dogs to their crimes.
Of course, it’s up to owners to ensure their dogs are raised with love and care and do not become a menace to society. But picture a totalitarian future where an anti-dog Prime Minister gets into office and makes sniffing lampposts illegal. Could your pupper end up in jail?
After all, in China, dog ownership was branded “bourgeois” by the government for many years.
“We do not target dogs themselves. We aim to regulate dog owners,” Duan Cunguo, an urban management officer in the city's Xihu district, reassured China Daily back in November.
But next time your dog escapes and presses her nose up against the butcher’s shop window, she could be leaving a vital clue at the scene of the crime.