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AI cat flap prevents pets bringing in dead prey

A new AI cat flap can prevent pets from bringing dead prey into the home.

Ben Hamm - who is an employee at Amazon - has developed a new cat flap as a DIY project which features artificial intelligence designed to lock his pet pussy outside when it tries to enter carrying prey, such as a mouse or bird.

The developer used machine-learning software to train a system to recognise when his cat, named Metric, was approaching with prey in its mouth, at which point the computer would trigger a 15-minute lock on the cat flap, preventing Metric from coming inside with its kill.

Ben used Amazon's Sagemaker tool - which allows customers to either buy third-party algorithms or to build their own, then train and tune them with their own data - to build his AI, and said the most time-consuming part of the task had been the gathering of more than 23,000 photos.

Each image had to be hand sorted to determine whether the cat was in view, whether it was coming or going and if it was carrying prey.

However, Ben's method wasn't foolproof, as he noted that over a five-week period, Metric was unfairly locked out once, and was also able to bring a victim inside once out of the seven times it had caught something.

But when a software engineer suggested that it might have been easier to teach his cat to change its behaviour rather than train a computer model, Ben defended his work.

He tweeted: "Negative reinforcement doesn't work for cats, and I'd challenge you to come up with a way to use rewards to prevent a behaviour that an animal exhibits once every 10 days at 3am!"

Although Ben's device isn't widely available to the public, developers at Microsoft previously shared details of a smart cat flap they had created, which worked to recognise the owner's pet whilst keeping other intruding animals away.

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