My girlfriend has a cat that's really irritating me at the moment. It regularly wakes me up at 3AM with its annoying voice, meowing (howling) at the top of its lungs. I honestly think it might be a dog in disguise. Thankfully, Microsoft has just created an iPhone app to help everyone identify breeds of dogs based on just a photo. Concerned about my bothersome cat, I put it straight to the test to find out the truth.
Under the disguise of too much fur and a bumble bee suit, it appears that my cat is in fact 70 percent Beagle. I knew it. Microsoft says Beagle's are happy, playful, merry, and gentle. My cat is none of those things with a bumble bee suit on.
With the cat question complete, I moved on to test actual real dogs. Like many of Microsoft's other apps, fetch! (yes that's the real app name) uses the software company's machine learning to process images of a man's best friend. "There was an interest in creating a framework that would allow you to take a domain - in our case, dogs - and recognize numerous classes, such as breeds," says Mitch Goldberg, a development director at Microsoft Research in the UK. "We were interested in enabling an app to allow you to make object recognition extraordinary, fun, and surprising."
It's really accurate on real dogs
It's certainly surprisingly accurate on images of real dogs. Microsoft's app correctly identified a Dachshund, Shih Tzu, Border Collie, and German Shepherd during my tests. I tested some rare breeds, but it seems Microsoft's app is limited to common household dogs. The software and algorithms behind this seemingly simple app are the work of Microsoft's Research team. We're starting to see a lot more of these apps emerge from Microsoft as part of a broader push to show off its artificial intelligence credentials, and an internal effort to overhaul its research arm so that inventions become a reality.
Microsoft has previously guessed how sad Keanu is, alongside everyone's ages and your twin status. The software maker also released an Android alarm app last month that's designed to force you to wake up and make faces at 6AM. All of the apps feed into Microsoft's Project Oxford experiments, and should allow developers to leverage the company's machine learning efforts in the future. You can download Microsoft's latest fetch iPhone app from the App Store, or visit the company's online version if you don't own an iPhone.