Yes, Google Photos can tell your pets apart

Thanks to advanced machine learning, Google knows the difference between your calico cat, your orange tabby and your Chihuahua.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
2 min read
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Google knows these are two different cats.

Amanda Kooser/CNET

Last week, Google Photos gave me a "Meow Movie," a video slideshow stuffed with pictures of my two sibling black cats. What it didn't include were photos of other people's cats, of which I have many. On Monday, Google confirmed it can not only identify cats and dogs in your photo archive, it can also tell the difference between individual animals.

Google Photos software engineer Lily Kharevych posted a blog detailing how Google Photos now categorizes your pets the same way it handles humans. "Rolling out in most countries today, you'll be able to see photos of the cats and dogs now grouped alongside people," writes Kharevych. 

Kharevych notes you can search by a specific breed or even with cat or dog emoji to locate your animal images. 

Sorting animal photos is still an imperfect art. A Google spokeswoman tells CNET, "Yes, our machine learning model is trained to distinguish individual cats, not just distinguish cats of different breeds. However, it the cats are the same breed and look very similar it's possible they get mistaken as the same cat."   

Google does an excellent job of identifying the cats in my photo archive, with only one stray dog and one squirrel sneaking into my otherwise feline-full search results. A search for "calico" brings up all the spotted cats and "tabby" returns the striped ones. 

A search for "dogs" gives reasonably accurate results, though there's a goat, a horse, a cow, some sheep and several cats that show up. To be fair, it's easy to see how a digital brain would think they're probably canines.

My "Meow Movie" is proof of Google Photos' effectiveness in categorizing pet pics. If you want a cat or dog video of your own, you can keep snapping pet photos and wait for Google to automatically create one, or you can select photos and make a slideshow with your choice of six different cat or dog-related songs. I recommend "The Blue Danube" waltz done with cat meows.

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