What does it take for a computer program to recognize your cat? In 2004, it took a specialized software company, running a program on a desktop personal computer. In 2012, a non-expert can write a similar program and run it on a smartphone. At least that's what Aaron Forster, an information technology consultant but not a programmer, wants to show.
Forster's cat, Timothy, is pretty cute, but Forster is tired of him bringing in dead or dying birds and mice and dropping them on the carpet. Eight years ago, an image-recognition software company solved the same problem with its company cat, Flo. Quantum Picture developed a cat door that let Flo in, but locked her out if it saw she was carrying something in her mouth. At the time, the door connected to a desktop computer that ran the program that snapped pictures of Flo and analyzed them as she approached the door. Now, Forster is determined to build Flo's door for Timothy on weekends, in between his usual consulting work in Simi Valley, Calif.
"From what I'd seen in the past, the power of computing had taken the difficulty of this way down," Forster said. "Part of the project was to prove you could do this sort of stuff without being a computer vision expert."
Computer vision researchers say several new tools have made the task doable for hobbyists. But because computer vision is still difficult, even for scientists, people who are looking for guaranteed results, rather than the fun of putting the door together, should probably stay away from a do-it-yourself door for now.