Project Oxford, Microsoft's cloud-based collection of machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) software tools, has already spawned some entertaining Web experiences, including TwinsOrNot.net, MyMoustache.net and the viral hit How-Old.net. Just in time for this year's Westminster Kennel Club Show in New York, Microsoft is using its AI technology on dogs with a new app for iOS called Fetch, the company announced today.
"Using your iPhone camera or photo library, it can identify and classify dogs by breeds and tell you what kind of human personality fits best with specific breeds," wrote Microsoft spokesperson Athima Chansanchai in a Feb. 11 announcement. "And just for fun, the app will even take an informed guess on what kind of dog you or your friends might be."
Apart from showcasing some of Project Oxford's AI capabilities, the app exemplifies Microsoft's recent efforts to live up to its "mobile-first" mantra.
The dog-spotting app hails from Microsoft Garage, a relatively new unit within the software giant that publishes consumer mobile software. In contrast to the company's heavy hitters like Office and Skype, Garage apps are quickly developed and released by semi-autonomous teams within the company.
In the case of Fetch, the team was headed by Mitch Goldberg, a development director at Microsoft Research in Cambridge, UK, whose team specializes in machine learning and computer vision.
"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," Goldberg was quoted as saying. "We wanted to bring artificial intelligence to the canine world. We wanted to show that object recognition is something anyone could understand and interact with."
Users can use the app to identify and learn more about their pooches and others inhabiting their iPhone's camera roll. If the app encounters a mixed-breed dog or if a dog's breed is undetermined, the app will display a "percentage rosette." Tapping on it will generate a list of the top five breeds likely to make up the dog in question. Microsoft showed off an early version of the technology as part of a demonstration of the company's "deep-learning" system called Project Adam in the summer of 2014.
For laughs, users can also train the app on a human. Goldberg said that if users " take a picture of a person, it'll kick into its hidden fun mode. And in a playful way, it'll communicate to you not only what type of dog it thinks you are, but also why."
AI has become a major focus for technology companies seeking to be at the forefront of intelligent services and devices that interact with the physical world.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently gave Google's self-driving car program a major boost. Google was recently granted a request by the agency to consider the AI powering its self-driving cars as the "driver" of the vehicle under federal safety regulations.