Computer Engineer Designs World’s First AI-Powered Cat Shelter in Beijing

Elin, YouTube
Elin, YouTube

Beijing isn’t quite as frigid as Chicago is right now, but with the forecast calling for low temperatures in the 20s this weekend, it’s not exactly the best place to be a stray cat. Without proper shelter and medical attention, many of China’s stray cats die within two years. With this in mind, a computer engineer in Beijing designed an AI-powered shelter to keep outdoor kitties snug and safe this winter, the Daily Mail reports.

“At first, I just wanted to provide them with a warm place in winter with food and water that is not frozen,” Wan Xi told China's People's Daily. The scope of the project continued to expand, and Xi ended up working with animal welfare experts to create a high-tech shelter that doubles as a makeshift veterinary clinic.

The temperature inside the shelter is set to stay at 27°C (80°F). Smart cameras attached to the structure can detect and flag any potential health problems the felines may be facing, and they can reportedly even tell whether a cat has been spayed or neutered.

Using facial recognition, the cameras have been trained to recognize approaching cats. The shelter’s sliding door only opens when a cat is recognized, which keeps other furry critters out.

Although the shelter is self-operating, a group of volunteers helps monitor the data collected by cameras. Xi also uses a mobile app to check up on the cats. The video below is in Chinese, but you can watch some curious cats testing out the shelter around the 3:20 mark.

[h/t Daily Mail]

Meet LiLou: The World's First Airport Therapy Pig

Kseniia Derzhavina/iStock via Getty Images
Kseniia Derzhavina/iStock via Getty Images

There's a new reason to get to the airport early—you might run into a therapy pig who's there to make your trip a little easier. As Reuters reports, LiLou the Juliana pig is a member of San Francisco International Airport's "Wag Brigade," a therapy animal program designed to ease stress and anxiety in travelers.

Aside from her snout and potbelly, LiLou can be recognized by her captain's hat and red "hoof" polish. She spends the day with guests who are happy to take a break from the pressures of traveling. She might comfort them by posing for a selfie, playing a song on her toy keyboard, or offering them a head to pet.

After bringing joy to people's day, LiLou goes home to her San Francisco apartment where she lives with her owner, Tatyana Danilova. In her free time, she goes on daily walks and snacks on organic vegetables. She even has her own Instagram account.

Airports around the world are embracing the benefits therapy animals can bring to customers. The Wag Brigade program at San Francisco includes a number of dogs, and earlier this year, the Aberdeen Airport in Scotland debuted its own "canine crew" of dogs trained to make travelers feel safe and happy. Therapy miniature horses have even been used at an airport in Kentucky. According to the San Francisco Airport, LiLiou is the world's first airport therapy pig.

To see LiLou turn on the charm, check out the video below.

[h/t Reuters]

Sssspectacular: Tree Snakes in Australia Can Actually Jump

sirichai_raksue/iStock via Getty Images
sirichai_raksue/iStock via Getty Images

Ophidiophobia, or fear of snakes, is common among humans. We avoid snakes in the wild, have nightmares about snakes at night, and recoil at snakes on television. We might even be born with the aversion. When researchers showed babies photos of snakes and spiders, their tiny pupils dilated, indicating an arousal response to these ancestral threats.

If you really want to scare a baby, show them footage of an Australian tree snake. Thanks to researchers at Virginia Tech, we now know these non-venomous snakes of the genus Dendrelaphis can become airborne, propelling themselves around treetops like sentient Silly String.

That’s Dendrelaphis pictus, which was caught zipping through the air in 2010. After looking at footage previously filmed by her advisor Jake Socha, Virginia Tech Ph.D. candidate Michelle Graham headed for Australia and built a kind of American Ninja Warrior course for snakes out of PVC piping and tree branches. Graham observed that the snakes tend to spot their landing target, then spring upward. The momentum gets them across gaps that would otherwise not be practical to cross.

Graham next plans to investigate why snakes feel compelled to jump. They might feel a need to escape, or continue moving, or do it because they can. Two scientific papers due in 2020 could provide answers.

Dendrelaphis isn’t the only kind of snake with propulsive capabilities. The Chrysopelea genus includes five species found in Southeast Asia and China, among other places, that can glide through the air.

[h/t National Geographic]

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