Mr. McSparkles has been missing for days. Until now, the only recourse of pet owners whose beloved animals go missing is to Xerox a recent photo of the fuzzy friend—if one even exists— and tape it to neighbouring telephone poles in the hope that someone helps find the lost animal.
Enter PiP, a Vancouver-based pet recognition app for iOS. PiP enables pet owners to blast out an all-points bulletin on a lost pet, the high-tech human equivalent of the twilight bark from 101 Dalmatians. Within moments, a pet’s picture and description can be beamed to nearby animal shelters and animal control agencies. PiP staff will even manually send pet’s info to various concerned groups. And perhaps most surprisingly of all, PiP uses facial recognition software to match your lost pet’s picture to photos of found animals.
“Facial recognition technology for humans and animals is very different,” explains PiP CEO and Founder Philip Rooyakkers. ” In humans, [facial] features … are quite consistent amongst races. While pets have standard features (ie. eyes, nose, mouth), the range of difference amongst pets and breed is immense. Our technology confirms the location of the animal’s eyes and upper lip to normalize the image for processing to make identifications.”
With all the possible factors at play in recognizing animals through technology, what’s PiP’s hit rate? “In our tests, we have had a 98 percent accuracy in positive identification.”
Rooyakkers developed PiP after learning the dismaying statistic that the vast majority of lost dogs (80 percent) and cats (98 percent) never find their way back to their owners. Rooyakkers was particularly moved by his experience at an animal shelter, where a well-cared-for black lab was adopted by a couple instead of being returned to its original owner.
The arrival of PiP comes as a mixed blessing to Canadian television fans, who have to live with the fact that apps such as these make the continuing adventures of The Littlest Hobo difficult, if not impossible.