A new service uses visual-recognition technology to pair potential owners with their ideal four-legged friends.
Looking to adopt a cat or dog that resembles your deceased companion – or one who resembles an internet meme? Thanks to the wonders of ‘machine vision’ – the automatic collection and analysis of visual data – there’s now an app for that. PetMatch is the first app from Israel- and Palo Alto-based Superfish, a $20 million-funded startup devoted to extracting meaning from images, and promisingly, it’s for a good cause. The platform uses information and images from PetFinder to get pets adopted. “Many of the folks at Superfish are pet lovers,” said spokeswoman Liz Scanlon. “In fact there are several dogs in the office every day running around.”
You can use any image of an animal, even the outlandish likenesses of internet memes like Doge and Grumpy Cat. If you’re a new pet owner or fresh out of ideas, the app even has a set of stock images for you to choose from. Superfish then does a geometrical analysis of whatever image you choose, analyzing the distance between the animal’s facial features, as well as the shape of its eyes, mouth or face as a whole. Coat color is also a factor, with a search for ‘Doge’ turning up similarly orange animals. A weirdly angled photo can throw the app off, but it’s perfect if you’re looking for a mutt with that certain je ne sais quoi. Pet results can be arranged by similarity or location – helpful if you’re looking to adopt a pet who doesn’t have to be driven across state lines.
So how does Superfish turn a profit? Not through apps like this, which sadly cannot solicit fees in the form of rubs around the legs and soft licks on the nose. Instead, Superfish, which has been around since 2006, has a browser extension and iOS app that allows its 100 million monthly users to find similar-looking inanimate products – and generates a healthy profit. Apps for a good cause like PetMatch will soon join more pedestrian ones that can find matched pictures of jewelry and furniture.
Visual search services are becoming a hot commodity in Silicon Valley, with Slyce, a comparison-shopping service that also offers visual recognition, raising $10.5 million this year, and Pinterest buying VisualGraph, another company that has invested resources in machine vision services. But what other company can say they’ll help hundreds if not thousands of puppies and kitties? Maybe Colenso BBDO’s project for the Pedigree Adoption Drive Doggelganger, which now appears to be offline.
However, there’s more to the relationship between humans and pets than appearance; maybe the next step is an app that intuitively pairs us based on personality and habits.