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One of the biggest advances in this early stage of working artificial intelligence is facial recognition — the ability of Facebook to pick out individuals across its platform, and the Chinese to nab suspected criminals out of a city crowd.

But last year, engineers working for JD Finance, the financial arm of JD.com, the e-commerce giant, wondered where such capabilities could go next. What about animals? So it was that a contest unfolded: three teams of engineers pitted against one another to adapt facial recognition programs to piglets.

How will the winner be selected?

  • As a first stage, each team must show it can identify individual pigs, says Chris Yao, a vice president of strategy for the JD.com affiliate, speaking over lunch Monday with a small group of journalists.
  • Then, they must do so over time — after all, as with humans, a piglet's facial appearance evolves as it grows up.

This isn't entirely a lark: The pig inquiry has its roots in a prior JD Finance study of chickens that resulted in a way to systemize feed costs for a full-size bird.

  • If facial recognition can detect a pig's age and approximate weight through time, it might be possible to systematize the cost of feed to raise them, too, and "when it's the right time to sell," Yao said.
  • Yao said he has begun to look around for who might pay for such data.

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Congressman criminally charged with lying to feds

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry. Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) has been indicted on charges he falsified records and lied to federal investigators probing an illegal foreign donation scheme, the Justice Department announced on Tuesday.

Driving the news: DOJ says a Fortenberry associate, who later cooperated with investigators, informed him he'd likely received illegal donations from an intermediary for a foreign national, but that Fortenberry denied any knowledge of such a scheme when contacted by the FBI.

"Assassin's Creed," but for schools

"Viking Age: Discovery Tour." Image via Ubisoft

For the third time since 2018, Ubisoft is releasing a nonviolent version of its latest “Assassin’s Creed” game as part of a unique effort to turn one of the medium’s most popular series into an educational tool.

Driving the news:Viking Age: Discovery Tour” transforms last year’s “Assassin’s Creed Valhalla” from a bloody 150-hour game about Viking conquest in 9th century England into a peaceful four-hour game about merchants and monks.

School enrollment fell by almost 3 million from 2019 to 2020

Kindergarten student Natalia Bayoumi holds the hand of her father Amir Bayoumi as he walks to the front door of Normont Elementary School in Harbor City, CA. Photo: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The number of individuals enrolled in the U.S. education system dropped by 2.9 million from 2019 to 2020, according to new data released Tuesday by the Census Bureau.

Why it matters: This marks the lowest level of school enrollment for those under 35 years-old in over 20 years, per the Census Bureau.

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