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This engineer built a facial recognition gadget to notify him when his cat wants to come inside

Rob Price , Business Insider US

Knock knock.
Arkaitz Garro


  • An engineer built a DIY device that recognises when his cat is outside and notifies him so he can let him in.
  • To build the gadget, Arkaitz Garro used a Raspberry Pi mini-computer, mounted with a camera, running image-recognition and motion-detection software. 
  • It will only recognise his cat, thanks to facial detection tools. 
  • It took him a few hours to make, and the software is available online, so anyone can make their own.

Cat-flaps are so passé.

If you've ever lived with a cat, you're probably used to finding it sitting outside a window or door, watching you reproachfully, waiting to be let in. It's a situation that Arkaitz Garro, a WeTransfer software engineer living in Holland, has regularly found himself in.

But rather than installing a pet-door, or letting his feline friend wait in the cold, Garro had a better idea: Building a gadget that would effectively let the cat text him when it was outside the window and wanted to be let in.

"My wife and I saw this cat through our back balcony a few years ago and we didn’t know if he had a home or if he was a stray cat. So, firstly, we became friends with the cat and posted pictures all around our neighbourhood," he wrote in an email to Business Insider.

"We found out that the cat had an owner, who lived a few houses away and who was very happy to 'share' the cat with us, who now happily has two families who loves him. So, he has developed a schedule where he comes to our house at around specific times."

Chastened by the cat's baleful glare, Garro began work. His solution: A gadget with a camera attached that would use motion-detection and image-recognition AI software to automatically recognise his cat when it was waiting outside, then send him a message so he could let it in.

"We wanted to be notified when he was around so we could open the back door for him, as we don’t have a cat-door," the engineer explained.

Knock knock.
Arkaitz Garro

"When it detects movement, it sends the picture to a recognition software, that checks against the identity of the cat based on previous imagery of the cat," he said.

If the software is satisfied that it is indeed the correct cat (as opposed to a strangers' cat, or a squirrel, or a piece of litter), Garro receives a push notification message on his phone.

This is what the cat-cam 'sees.'
Arkaitz Garro

For people interested in making their own, Garro used a Raspberry Pi mini-computer mounted with a camera module, along with motioneyeos for motion-detection software, all rigged up to Amazon Web Services' Rekognition AI software in the cloud for the image recognition. He receives the notifications via the Slack messaging app.

The Slack notifications Arkaitz Garro receives on his phone.
Arkaitz Garro

"It took me a few hours to put all the pieces together and the software up and running, but also some more time after to fine tune the software to be able to recognize the cat," he said.

In short: The future is here, and cats are using it to get even more attention from their humans. Naturally.


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