This AI device will make a mutt out of you

Ever thought about what kind of cat or dog your face resembles? Just stand in front of an artificial intelligence-linked digital single-lens reflex camera, and you can get a result in seconds.

It may read: “You are 74% Munchkin, 20% Tonkinese and 6% Scottish Fold.”

Anicom Holdings, Japan’s leading pet insurer, has set up a team to work on advanced image analysis based on deep machine learning, a kind of artificial intelligence. Mimicking the signal processing of the human brain’s neural network, the technology, or computer, identifies specific representations from a vast amount of data.

The insurer is now using the technology to promote its potential and help customers be more familiar with animals. Those who participate get a card imprinted with the image of their pet selves.

Eventually, Anicom aims to use the technology to help prevent unhealthy pets from getting sick. It is trying to develop a device capable of reading the faces of cats and dogs in the most minute of detail, then use the readings to identify the early stages of sickness. The service Anicom hopes to provide would warn pet owners before their pets show noticeable symptoms and have to go to a pet hospital.

The face is not the only target. Anicom is also studying the possibility of predicting bowel diseases by examining images of a pet’s stools. “Once we define the link between images and diseases for animals, we would like to apply the method to humans,” said Meiji Maruo, who oversees the company’s planning section.

Other businesses have their own ideas of how to take advantage of the coming AI revolution. A real-estate brokerage is leveraging deep learning to judge the best time to buy or sell property. Tokyo-based Itandi, founded in 2012, analyzes condominium sales information. It cross-checks as many as 60 measurements, from room layout and floor size, to macroeconomic and other data, including interest rates, land prices and stock prices.

Based on the analysis, Itandi estimates Tokyo area property prices, then lists “good buys.” It began delivering its lists to real estate investors this past summer.

According to Yuya Fujiwara, head of Itandi’s AI Technology Lab, the method has demonstrated its predictions to be more accurate than those made by certified real-estate evaluators.

Itandi’s method can also immediately calculate returns from buying a home, renting it out, then selling it in 10 years. The brokerage plans to expand its area of coverage to Osaka and other cities this year.

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