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article imageLost your dog? Finding Rover can be much easier with this app

By Megan Hamilton     Jul 21, 2015 in Technology
Finding Rover is a new smartphone app that helps dog owners find their lost pets by using facial recognition technology.
John Polimeno, developer of the app, was sitting in a coffee shop when he noticed the ever ubiquitous "lost dog" poster.
It brought back memories of his own experiences searching for a lost pooch, with tearful kids in the backseat. There simply had to be a better way. Then he glanced at the coffee shop customers communing with their smartphones, NPR's All Tech Considered reported.
An idea popped into his head.
An idea that just happened to be in the form of a smartphone app that uses facial recognition to reunite pooches and people. Polimeno and a team at the University of Utah developed software by studying facial recognition technologies that are used in prisons and casinos. These technologies use algorithms which the team then adapted for pets, locating all of the unique facial features that make up our pooches. So far, the technology has an accuracy rate of up to 99 percent, and the company says there have been more than 600 dog and owner reunions.
The app certainly worked for Kevin Villicana, whose dog Sergeant disappeared last week, The Financial Express reports.
"We heard about this app Finding Rover," he said. "We uploaded Sergeant's picture into that."
It turns out that their Siberian husky friend had been taken to an animal shelter. The shelter had photographed and entered all of its lost pets into the Finding Rover app, so Sergeant was found almost immediately.
"About five minutes into the search, I found his picture. I called the shelter to find out if it was him, and it was," Villicana said.
The app is easy to use, Life With Dogs reports.
It works like this:
You upload a photo of your dog to the database. The database uses facial recognition to see if your dog's picture can be matched to the photos of any dogs that people have uploaded as "found." If there's a match, you've now located your dog.
The burgeoning expansion and worldwide reach of social media networks like Facebook and Twitter have helped people get the word out about lost, missing, or even stolen pets to a much larger audience. There are plenty of examples of dogs and their owners being reunited, and this demonstrates just how powerful these sites are. Polimeno hopes that using Finding Rover will simplify and streamline the process of getting pets back together with their owners.
For Daniel DeSousa, deputy director of the San Diego County Department of Animal Services, microchipping, GPS or any other method that reunites lost dogs with their owners is a good thing. He has noticed, however that some owners and pet-sitters remove the GPS tags. Microchips must be scanned, and this means the dog has to be taken to a facility with that equipment, NPR reports.
It's a different story with Finding Rover. All a person needs to do is take a photo of the dog, DeSousa says.
It's an uphill battle, when you consider that 3.9 million dogs wind up at animal shelters each year, but Finding Rover has over 100,000 users, Polimeno estimates, and the network also includes 100 shelters worldwide, as well as several thousand veterinarians. He hopes that over time the app, which is free, will encourage people to register and download the app. Microchipping and GPS trackers are an individualistic approach to finding a lost pet, but adding Finding Rover can enhance an owner's chances of finding their pet by getting the public involved.
Polimeno says he expects that advertising in the app's social network for pet owners will pick up soon, and next month, cats will be added to the app so that they will have a chance to be reunited with their owners as well.
Note: This video shows how the app works.
More about finding rover app, findingrovercom, Facial recognition, john polimeno, Smartphones
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