We have apps to help us work out what music we’ve heard and apps to find images we’ve just seen, but what about an app to let you find a dog breed you’ve seen in the park?
Microsoft is making this one a reality with something emerging from Microsoft’s Garage experimental project area, and it comes in the form of an app specifically for iOS.
Recently released, it’s an app that relies on neural networks and artificial intelligence to identify a dog’s breed by looking through dog shapes, dog colours, dog pictures, and more.
The concept is simple, and is one based on repeated use: you grab a picture of a dog — either one you’ve just photographed or one from a while ago — and you run the Fetch app on the photo, with a breed being spit out and a percentage that Microsoft Fetch thinks the dog breed matches with.
More information can be found on the breed, and from there, you might be able to make up your mind whether it’s the sort of dog you might want in your life.
To make this happen, Microsoft has a page on the technology, but sufficed to say, you’re talking about machine learning, cloud services, and a bit of Microsoft’s vocal search assistant Cortana being employed to help you find out which dog you were looking at.
In theory, it sounds like a great idea, but the practicality tells you Microsoft’s Fetch may well be a bit of fun compared to a downright serious dog identification app.
For instance, it took four tries just to get Ali the Chihuahua to be picked up as a Chihuahua instead of an Italian Greyhound, while Milo the JackChi — and he’s more Jack Russell than Chihuahua out of those — is still being called lots of different dog types instead of what he actually is.
Indeed, while JackChi and Jack Russell seem to be alluding the Fetch engine, some of the more surprising identifications come from the shapes and colours being looked at, such as a Dachshund being picked up as a Doberman while a white cat is called a Samoyed.
We can actually see that, though we are a touch flummoxed by Fetch picking up a Beagle in a wallet. A wallet, people. We’re not even sure what Fetch is trying to say by that one.
Disturbingly, a drawing of Snoopy was missed completely, while an image of The Simpsons’ Shopkeeper from “Treehouse of Horror III” was identified as a character that could be a dog.
In fact, if there’s one reason to use Fetch, it comes from this human identification.
Listed as “Fetch Fun”, this comes from Fetch picking up on human characteristics and facial features and translating it into a dog, providing you with a bit of playfulness and an idea of what dog you might be if, you know, you were a breed.
This reviewer is apparently a Labrador — which makes sense given how much he eats — while the GadgetGuy’s designer is a Border Collie. Go figure.
The other feature worth talking about is in the camera, and while it might just latch onto Apple’s iPhone camera and use the image for the app, it does come with one other feature: you can use the camera while playing sounds.
Selecting that second option does just that, giving you access to a camera interface while random sounds are played, with bird calls, squeaks, and so on, all used to get the attention of the animal.
On the plus side, if you decide to use the image for anything other than the app, the camera with sounds will still save the image on the iPhone, so you have that waiting for you after you’ve managed to get the attention.
We found Milo the JackChi would tilt his head at the sounds coming from the iPhone, while Ali the Chihuahua generally just ignored the sounds, so your results may vary depending on your dog.
Even if you don’t have a dog, Fetch is fun for those human identifications and for its ability to work out the difference between your hand, a cat, and at least the shape of a dog, making it an interesting project, even if it is one that doesn’t really feel totally finished.
Fetch! is available now and is free for Apple iOS.