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China is using facial recognition to ID pandas and it's the cutest thing ever

If you can't be a panda cuddler, this might be the next best gig.

Giant panda in captivity
Researchers are working on logging the facial differences among pandas.
VCG/Getty Images

All pandas look the same -- they're ridiculously adorable with black and white markings, right? Wrong.

Artificial intelligence researchers in China have developed a facial recognition app designed to tell pandas apart, both those in captivity and those in the wild. The team has collected 120,000 images and 10,000 video clips of giant pandas since the project began in 2017, according to Xinhua News. About 10,000 panda pictures have been analyzed, marked and annotated.

"The app and database will help us gather more precise and well-rounded data on the population, distribution, ages, gender ratio, birth and deaths of wild pandas, who live in deep mountains and are hard to track," Chen Peng, a researcher with the base who co-authored a paper on Giant Panda Face Recognition Using Small Database, told Xinhua News on Friday.

The researchers didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Facial recognition news out of China isn't always of the adorable variety. The country makes extensive use of the technology to monitor its citizens, with more than 200 million surveillance cameras throughout the country.

Chen also hopes the panda recognition research will help in the conservation and management of the animals.

As of November, there were 548 captive pandas in the world, Xinhua News reported. Fewer than 2,000 live in the wild, mostly in the provinces of Sichuan and Shaanxi.

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