Leeds AI experts to help vet-tech firm enhance pet care app

SOURCE: Patrick Hendry/Unsplash
The KTP will focus on a new AI-driven video feature on Joii: pet gait analysis.


By U2B Staff 

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Artificial intelligence experts from the University of Leeds will help vet-tech firm Vet-AI improve customer experience on its petcare app Joii, thanks to a new knowledge transfer partnership (KTP) agreement between the two parties.

For the KTP, Professor David Hogg and Dr Derek Magee from the university’s School of Computing will provide their AI expertise in image analysis for a groundbreaking new feature on the app: gait analysis for pets.

A full-time KTP Associate will also be appointed to work alongside the Vet-AI team based at Nexus, the university’s £40 million innovation hub. 

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“Our KTP Associate will work closely with our software development team as well as our clinical team of vets and vet nurses, as part of a multi-disciplinary partnership, focused on developing the diagnosis, instructions and advice elements of our product,” Vet-AI co-founder Paul Hallett said in a media release.

He pointed out that Vet-AI moved to Nexus last year to facilitate partnerships such as this, knowing that its close proximity to the university would open up more opportunities to collaborate with its experts.

“This partnership clearly vindicates that decision and we’re delighted to be working with world leading tech experts as we move into a new phase of AI development,” he said.

Vet-AI team
(L to R) Vet-AI co-founders Sarah Warren, Paul Hallett and Robert Dawson & chief data scientist Trevor Hardcastle. Source: Nexus Leeds

Vet-AI was founded in 2017 by Hallett, an experienced veterinarian, and two business partners – Robert Dawson and veterinary dermatologist, Sarah Warren.

In forming the company, the trio had one mission: to overhaul pet healthcare. They wanted to plug gaps in the pet care product market, noticing how despite growing pet ownership, R&D in tech-driven solutions to improve pet health and wellbeing have been lacking. In addition, they wanted to improve the working conditions of pet doctors, known globally to be a highly-stressed and overworked community.

Vet-AI was started as an R&D company, with the aim of building the largest and most reliable pet healthcare database on the planet. To collect the data for this, the firm launched Joii last year, around the same time as its move to Nexus. 

A consumer-facing advice app, Joii is designed to save pet owners up to 60 percent on normal vet fees, with access to 70 percent of the normal services. Using complex algorithms written by vets, the application is able to diagnose a pet’s symptoms and offer solutions on what action to take next, whether that means recommending a treatment, not taking any action, consulting a vet online or going to see one in person.

The app’s gait analysis feature is the next stage of the firm’s expanding range of capabilities.

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With the help of the KTP, secured thanks to grant funding from Innovate UK, Vet-AI will be deploying the latest machine-learning and AI-driven video analysis models to analyse raw videos of pets to provide a diagnostic output for gait abnormalities.

This means pet owners merely need to snap short five-second videos of their pets using their smartphone cameras and the app would be able to detect possible problems like arthritis and hip dysplasia.

This capability is set to revolutionise the pet care market, which has remained largely ignored in the global AI revolution, and place the firm well on its way to achieving its objectives to improve pet and vet lives.

Thanks to the KTP and its Nexus outpost, the company is well-positioned to realise this dream.

“Vet-AI’s KTP is a true meeting of minds between academia and industry. It’s a great example of the deep and long-term collaborations we can facilitate between the University and Nexus members, to power innovation and increase competitiveness,” Nexus Director Dr Martin Stow said.

“As leading disruptors in the vet-tech industry, Vet-AI has already enjoyed rapid growth this year and with the support of its new KTP colleagues, I’m excited to see where the company will go next.”

A KTP is a 40-year-old UK-wide partnership government scheme funded by national innovation agency Innovate UK and created to support business growth and productivity.

Part of the government’s industrial strategy, the scheme is a three-way partnership between a local business, a university academic or research organisation and a graduate student, who will be employed by the organisation throughout the project term, which could be anywhere between 12 and 36 months.