The Daily Telegraph

Happy as a pig in muck? Tech­nol­ogy can tell

- Science · Animals · College · Wildlife · Higher Education · Scotland · Edinburgh · England · Bristol · University of the West

FA­CIAL recog­ni­tion tech­nol­ogy is be­ing used by sci­en­tists to as­sess the emo­tional well-be­ing of pigs in a project to help im­prove an­i­mal wel­fare.

Pigs are highly ex­pres­sive an­i­mals and pre­vi­ous re­search from Scot­land’s Ru­ral Col­lege (SRUC) has shown they can sig­nal their in­ten­tions to other swine us­ing dif­fer­ent fa­cial ex­pres­sions. There is also ev­i­dence they make dif­fer­ent ex­pres­sions when in pain or un­der stress. In the new project, sci­en­tists at SRUC’S Pig Re­search Cen­tre in Midlothian are cap­tur­ing 3D and 2D fa­cial im­ages of the breed­ing sow pop­u­la­tion un­der typ­i­cal sit­u­a­tions that are likely to re­sult in dif­fer­ent emo­tional states.

The im­ages are then pro­cessed at the Uni­ver­sity of the West of Eng­land Bris­tol’s Cen­tre for Ma­chine Vi­sion, where learn­ing tech­niques are be­ing de­vel­oped to au­to­mat­i­cally iden­tify dif­fer­ent emo­tions con­veyed by par­tic­u­lar fa­cial ex­pres­sions. Dr Emma Bax­ter from SRUC said: “Early iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of pig health is­sues gives farm­ers the po­ten­tial to im­prove an­i­mal well­be­ing by tack­ling any prob­lems quickly and im­ple­ment­ing tai­lored treat­ment for in­di­vid­u­als.”

Af­ter val­i­dat­ing the tech­niques, the team will de­velop the tech­nol­ogy for use on farms with com­mer­cial part­ners where in­di­vid­ual sows in large herds will be mon­i­tored con­tin­u­ously.

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