Vision system assesses the gait of pigs

Newcastle University (Newcastle, UK) researchers are using a video motion capture system to assess what constitutes a 'normal' gait in pigs by focusing on the angle of their joints and length of stride.

Vision system assesses the gait of pigs
Vision system assesses the gait of pigs

Newcastle University (Newcastle, UK) researchers are using a video motion capture system to assess what constitutes a 'normal' gait in pigs by focusing on the angle of their joints and length of stride.

Lameness is a key indicator of the welfare of all livestock, and the second most common reason for sows having to leave a breeding herd. Unfortunately, if an animal fails to respond to treatment, it will be euthanized.

"Lameness among livestock is a major problem for farmers. Female breeding pigs are particularly prone to leg problems and this makes it costly for farmers when an animal becomes lame because of the time and money invested in the breeding stock," says Sophia Stavrakakis, who carried out the research as part of her PhD.

As part of the study, pigs were trained to walk along a runway at the same pace by Mark Brett, an animal technician at the University's Cockle Park Farm in order that the leg movement and angles of the animals could be accurately compared.

Once the pigs had learned to walk at the correct speed, the team attached reflective markers at key points on their legs and used motion capture cameras to track their movement and identify those parameters which indicated that a pig had a good gait. The results then provided a benchmark against which the other pigs could be assessed.

"The work is still in its early stages but the aim is to use our research to make a real difference to both pig farmers and their animals. Using CCTV cameras placed strategically on the farm so that every pig walks past and is captured on camera would be a simple, non-invasive way of collating key data about each pig and identifying those animals which are least likely to suffer problems in the future," says Stavrakakis.

Many researchers are using computer vision systems to study the animal kingdom for a myriad of different reasons. Here's a compendium of ten top news stories on the subject that Vision Systems Design has published over the past year.

1. High-speed cameras capture moth motion

Tyson Hedrick, an assistant professor in the Department of Biology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Chapel Hill, NC, USA) is using three high-speed cameras to determine what makes hawk moths so skilled at flying.

2. Bull elephant behavior is preserved on video

The Birmingham Zoo (Birmingham, AL, USA) has deployed high-resolution cameras from Mobotix (Langmeil, Germany) throughout its facility, including high-traffic areas and point-of-sale locations.

3. Automated vision system speeds behavioral analysis research

At the Tufts Center for Regenerative and Developmental Biology, Dr. Michael Levin and his colleagues are using quantitative automated behavioral analysis techniques to study living animals.

4. High-speed cameras capture a vision of painted ladies in flight

Engineers at Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore, Maryland, USA) have been using high-speed video cameras to capture images of butterflies in flight in the hope of understanding how they might be able to mimic their maneuvers in the design of micro aerial vehicles (MAVs).

5. High-speed camera system targets biomechanical research

Researchers are using a vision system to study the predatory motion of dragonflies and how such motion might in future be used in robotic systems.

6. Image algorithms analyze bird behavior

Researchers from the University of Lincoln (Lincoln, UK) are developing algorithms that analyze video data from a population of seabirds to determine the causes of declining colonies.

7. Critters captured by infrared cameras

Researchers from the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science's Appalachian Laboratory (Frostburg, MD, USA) have conducted a study in which they set up infrared (IR) motion-detecting cameras to discover what sort of creatures are using the underground storm drains that lie under Maryland's highways.

8. Scientists unlock secrets of bird-brained vision

Researchers at the University of Queensland’s Brain Institute (QBI; St Lucia, Queensland) have unlocked the secret of how birds avoid collisions as they soar, swoop, dive, glide, and engage in other aeronautic maneuvers.

9. Scientists study bats for ultrasound improvements

To identify what gives natural biosonar systems the edge over human-made technologies, professor Nathan Intrator of Tel Aviv University's Blavatnik School of Computer Science has teamed up with Brown University's (Providence, RI, USA) professor Jim Simmons to study bats' biosonar capabilities.

10. An infra-red comeback for the beetles

A team of German researchers from the University of Bonn (Bonn, Germany) have concluded that the sensors of black fire beetles might even be more sensitive than un-cooled infrared sensors designed by man.

-- Dave Wilson, Senior Editor, Vision Systems Design

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