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Finding Rover: The Newest, Hi-Tech Way to Find Your Lost Pet

December 04, 2014

Story at-a-glance

  • A new high-tech facial recognition app for dogs has claimed its first successful reuniting of a lost dog and her heartbroken family.
  • FindingRover.com is a website and app that uses photos of lost dogs to help them find their way home.
  • The San Diego county shelter system was the first to integrate facial recognition technology into their intake process, and recently, they were able to reunite Roxy, a lost Shiba Inu, with her distraught owners.
  • The founder of FindingRover.com is showing the technology to shelters, rescues, veterinarians, and dog groups across the U.S. and in other countries to expand the photo database, which will ultimately result in more happy endings for missing pets and their families.

By Dr. Becker

A new high-tech tool is now being used in the search for lost pets. It's called facial recognition technology, and you can check it out at FindingRover.com.

It's in the Eyes (and the Nose)

FindingRover.com is a website and app that uses pictures of dogs to help return them to their owners. Using a smartphone, a pet owner takes a front-facing shot of their dog that includes a clear view of the eyes and nose -- the two most important features in facial recognition technology. The photo is uploaded to FindingRover.com, and once approved, it's kept in the website's database.

When a dog is found, the finder can take a photo and upload it to FindingRover.com as well. The site scans its database to see if there's a match. Matches generate a notice to the owner, who can then call the person who found their pet and arrange a pickup.

San Diego County Makes Its First Match

The County of San Diego Department of Animal Services was the first county in the U.S. to incorporate facial recognition technology into their shelter intake process. Every dog that enters the San Diego county shelter system is photographed and checked against the FindingRover.com database. The technology attempts to match eight distinctive facial markers on dogs with images uploaded by users searching for lost pets. If there's a match, the owner gets a call.

The network continues to grow as more shelters, veterinarians, and rescue groups learn the benefits of facial recognition technology in matching missing pets with their owners. John Polimeno, founder of FindingRover.com, plans to expand the photo database to improve the odds of more matches. He's showing the technology to shelters, rescues, veterinarians, and dog groups and is also visiting other countries.

The Finding Rover service is also available with apps for iPhones and Androids. Sign-up is free for users.

Finding Rover's first success story:

Tech Gurus Surprised by How Well Their Program Works

Steven Callahan and John Schreiner of the University of Utah's software development center created the technology that runs Finding Rover. Whereas there are only 8 facial markers for dogs, there are 128 in human facial recognition programs.

According to Callahan, "People are sort of uniform, the shape of their faces, skin tones, all their eyes, noses and mouths are in the same general location. But dogs' eyes and snouts are in different places."

Callahan says he actually had low expectations for the program, but it works surprisingly well and better than he thought it would. "It would take off if you had all the shelters in an area [included]," he said.

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