Dairy farmers and vets have enlisted the help of video gaming experts to help enhance cow health in a new study which they hope will be a ‘game-changer’ for the care and treatment of dairy cattle.
The SmARtview research project aims to develop a virtual reality-type headset that can recognize a cow by its skin patterns and use artificial intelligence algorithms to display health and productivity data about an animal as a user views it.
Duncan Forbes head of dairy at Agri-EPI, where the research is being conducted, said that by harnessing advanced technology currently used in video-gaming the researchers hope to be able to take the care and treatment of dairy cattle into a new era:
“The beauty of this project is that it combines farmers’ and vet’s experienced ‘eyes’ with real-time data – technology is being used to enhance, rather than replace, human skills.”
And he added that while different devices like robotic milkers, sensors and collars on cattle could already collect plentiful data, the SmARtview project would be designed to integrate this information in a way which could improve insight and drive decision-making.
He said that typically, a vet or farmer faced the time-consuming process of examining a cow then going to the farm office to review a variety of paper or PC-based records before determining what kind of intervention may be needed:
“SmARtview would make the whole process much more efficient and effective,” he said
The new system will be trialled by vets and allied professional from VetPartners’ practices around the UK.
Director of clinical research with the group, Rachel Dean said that SmARtview had huge potential for vets and allied professionals, such as foot trimmers and veterinary technicians, who worked on farms of all types and sizes.
“It is a unique and very innovative project which could transform the way they practice.”
Gaming company, Pocket Sized Hands and Abertay University will develop the AI technology capable of recognising individual animals.
“Our aim is to put new technology to best use in order to solve problems in the real world,” said Abertay’s Professor Ruth Falconer.
“We aim to develop ‘marker-less’ technology which can achieve the difficult task of recognising a cow by the patterning of its skin and shape in an environment where it is likely to be dirty and the light and weather conditions change frequently.”
When the researchers have cracked the challenge of cow-recognition, Pocket Sized Hands (PSH) will develop the augmented reality display which allows the data to be presented to the user in an engaging way.
“AR combines the real world with digital assets – information that is usually tied to a screen can now be viewed in the real world,” said PSH chief executive Gary McCartan.
“Use of the technology is in its early stages. For example, current headsets are quite bulky which would not be practical in a farm situation. We will be looking at ways to allow cow data to be easily accessed and understood.”
Source: The Scotsman