The Daily Telegraph
Happy as a pig in muck? Technology can tell
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.