Editor’s note: A version of this originally appeared on Radii, a new media platform covering culture, innovation, and life in today’s China.
Amid all the headlines about dystopian doomsday scenarios and mass surveillance of the populace, it can be easy to lose sight of the fact that in some instances AI and facial recognition can be put to positive uses. A cuddly case in point: Chinese internet powerhouse Baidu has created an AI cat shelter.
The shelter, which comes complete with toys, regular dispatches of food and water, and warm spaces to sleep, features feline facial recognition to grant access. It can also check its guests for various diseases and assess whether or not they’ve been neutered. If it identifies a sick cat, a message is sent to a nearby volunteer organization that looks after stray animals to come and administer the required help.
The project was instigated by Baidu employee Wan Xi after he discovered a small cat sheltering under his car last winter. After taking the cat to a vets, he resolved to use his technological know-how to help improve the situation for other strays.
Baidu’s development is an especially impactful one for northern China’s cat population, with sub-zero temperatures and the difficulty of obtaining food leading Dongbei News to estimate that just 4 in 10 stray cats make it through the winter in the country’s northeastern regions. And you don’t have to ximao (literally “inhale cats”; a Chinese slang term that likens affection for felines to a drug addiction) to be on board with Baidu’s mission to help change those statistics.
But that’s enough text — bring on the cute cat pics/gifs: