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Bizarre biometrics for goats, cows, and people too

Scientists are inventing butt detection tech for people and facial recognition for goats. Here are some of the strangest biometric identification under development

We have covered how authorities use biometrics-based ID schemes, or how cities can transform into surveillance hubs with thousands of street surveillance cameras.  But there are some downright strange biometric monitoring technologies not just for humans but for animals, too. Here are some that caught our attention.

1) Want to play “Love me… Love me not?” but don’t have daisies to pull apart? For Android users, the Russian company Elsys might have a solution. Its “Love Detector” app allegedly has emotion recognition capability. Elsys provides what it calls VibraImage technology to predict a person’s emotions –and actions– based on vibrations in their head and neck. There’s not enough evidence to suggest the technology actually works but apparently it didn’t stop Russian authorities from using the emotion recognition during the 2014 Sochi Olympics to detect potential terrorists.

2) Your bed, but as a giant Fitbit, collecting your biometric data while you sleep, like temperature, heart rate, breathing, movements, or your sleep environment. Sleeping fitness companies like Ghostbed and Eight Sleep are making mattresses studded with sensors so smart that they can allegedly improve your sleep hygiene. If you prefer your mattress less sentient, devices like bedside radars made by the likes of Beddit can track your sleep movements. Recently Amazon also began planning to monitor slumber  –and collect your sleep data in the bargain.

3) Can you recognize your friend down the block by her walk? It’s no longer just your special power. Gait recognition technology, or GRT, monitors and analyzes the shape of a person’s body and their unique biomechanics. The technology can track and identify a person by analyzing step width, walking speed and rotation of the hip. The Chinese government  in 2018 started using the technology. According to the developer Watrix, it offers accuracy as high as 94%. Last year, Russia reportedly also started developing the system. Privacy International last year published a guide for protecting against gait recognition at protests.

4) About ten years ago Japanese mechanical engineers developed technology to recognize a person’s bottom by analyzing the way they sit. Scientists at the Advanced Institute of Industrial Technology in Tokyo inserted 360 sensors in a car seat and tested the technology with 98% accuracy.

5) Industrial Technology Research Institute in Taiwan and Invoxia in France can track pets’ vitals, health and whereabouts with smart collars. “With the Smart Collar, the ability to collect at scale a large quantity of data over time, will open up incredible doors for research on correlations between vital signs and dog illnesses. This is how we discover new biomarkers, treatments and medicines,” said Invoxia CEO Amelie Caudron at the big Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

6) A Shanghai-based Wanhe goat farm has been developing facial recognition technology for thousands of their extremely rare, white goats. The facial recognition technology monitors goats’ weight, overall health, vaccination, and pregnancy, with the goal of significantly lowering the workload for staff currently burdened with checking on the goats several times a day. According to the Global Times, the technology is also aimed at improving the breeding of the special white goats, who only exist on this one farm.

7) In 2019, Chinese scientists developed a facial recognition app that identifies specific individual bears in Sichuan. Technologists trained the algorithm with tens of thousands of videos and photos of pandas so it can identify individuals by the shape of ears or circles around the eyes. “You no longer need to worry about making the pandas angry by calling them by the wrong name,” The Washington Post quoted the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding.

8) Scientists are trying to use facial recognition to detect distressed farm animals subject to factory farming, like pigs and cows. Researchers say large-scale farms have too few employees to detect stress in the animals. Some scientists are working to detect complex emotions in farm animals —like happiness. But many animal rights activists argue this area of research is a PR stunt to counter criticism of factory farming.

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