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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 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

  1. Health: Most vulnerable Americans aren't getting enough vaccine information — Fauci says Trump administration's lack of facts on COVID "very likely" cost lives.
  2. Politics: Biden unveils "wartime" COVID strategyBiden's COVID-19 bubble.
  3. Vaccine: Florida requiring proof of residency to get vaccine — CDC extends interval between vaccine doses for exceptional cases.
  4. World: Hong Kong to put tens of thousands on lockdown as cases surge.
  5. Sports: 2021 Tokyo Olympics hang in the balance.
  6. 🎧 Podcast: Carbon Health's CEO on unsticking the vaccine bottleneck.

Trump impeachment trial to start week of Feb. 8, Schumer says

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Photo: The Washington Post via Getty

The Senate will begin former President Trump's impeachment trial the week of Feb. 8, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced Friday on the Senate floor.

The state of play: Schumer announced the schedule after reaching an agreement with Republicans. The House will transmit the article of impeachment against the former president late Monday.

4 hours ago - Health

CDC extends interval between COVID vaccine doses for exceptional cases

Photo: Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty

Patients can space out the two doses of the coronavirus vaccine by up to six weeks if it’s "not feasible" to follow the shorter recommended window, according to updated guidance from the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention.

Driving the news: With the prospect of vaccine shortages and a low likelihood that supply will expand before April, the latest changes could provide a path to vaccinate more Americans — a top priority for President Biden.

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