Researchers at the University of Cambridge have developed an artificial intelligence that can tell if a sheep is in pain just by looking at it, which is apparently easier than asking it. While wondering about the feelings of sheep sounds like a strange use of advanced technology, this AI could be a powerful diagnostic tool for veterinarians and could help in the treatment of common and painful conditions in animals like the evocatively named ‘foot rot’. The AI allows the condition to be detected early, leading to faster treatment and pain relief for the poor sheep.
The AI system analyzes a sheep’s facial expressions to determine pain levels based on the Sheep Pain Facial Expression Scale (SPFES), which is accurate but tedious for humans to learn. So they gave the job to the AI, teaching it to recognize the faces sheep make when they are in pain. The program builds on earlier work that teaches computers to recognize emotions and expressions in human faces, now the machines are learning how to analyze the more inscrutable faces of sheep. Read their results here, while trying to figure out ways to make sheep smile instead