Skip to main content

A Fitbit for chickens? Sounds silly, but it could revolutionize poultry farms

Amy Murillo

There was a time, not that long ago, when wearable devices were only the province of humans. How far we’ve come since then! Here in 2018, there are high-tech wearables available, regardless of whether you’re a tiny grasshopper or a significantly larger animal like a cow.

Sitting neatly between these two size extremes is a new project coming out of the University of California, Riverside. Researchers there have developed a sort of “Fitbit for chickens.” It’s essentially a miniature backpack that’s capable of analyzing behavior — such as revealing if a chicken is pecking, preening, or dust-bathing — with an accuracy level of more than 85 percent. This is thanks to an algorithm trained on data gathered during the study. Crucially, the algorithm can also inform when something goes wrong, such as an outbreak of blood-drinking parasites.

“We are interested in studying chicken behaviors, but traditional behavior studies required the researchers to make in-person observations or watch hours of video,” Amy Murillo, one of the researchers on the project, told Digital Trends. “Both techniques limit the number of animals that can be observed and the total observation time. In our study, we used sensors with 3-axis accelerometers to track chicken movement. These sensors are worn by chickens and can collect data for long periods of time — continuously for up to two weeks on one battery charge.”

Alireza Abdoli, who also worked on the project, notes that the plan is not that every chicken is outfitted with its own sensor. While this could provide useful information, it would also be highly impractical. Instead, the idea is to use it as a tool to gather information on chicken health, and then apply those lessons to the brood at large.

“We are interested in knowing how ectoparasite infestations — mites or lice — impact chicken behaviors,” Murillo said. “So our next step is to use these sensors on birds with or without infestations to see if there are detectable behavioral differences. If significant behavioral differences are found, then it may be possible one day for commercial producers to use behavioral changes in their flocks to assess ectoparasite infestations. This may be especially useful for detecting early mite or louse infestations, or for assessing the success of a mite [and] louse control program on poultry farms.”

Longer term, she said the technology could be commercialized to help farmers assess the health of their chicken broods. Doing this would save considerable time, since at present farmers must manually check their chickens one a time to seek out mites. However, this commercialization is still a way off.

“Our next step is to evaluate chicken behavioral differences using these sensors on healthy versus unhealthy birds,” Murillo said.

Editors' Recommendations

Luke Dormehl
I'm a UK-based tech writer covering Cool Tech at Digital Trends. I've also written for Fast Company, Wired, the Guardian…
Digital Trends’ Top Tech of CES 2023 Awards
Best of CES 2023 Awards Our Top Tech from the Show Feature

Let there be no doubt: CES isn’t just alive in 2023; it’s thriving. Take one glance at the taxi gridlock outside the Las Vegas Convention Center and it’s evident that two quiet COVID years didn’t kill the world’s desire for an overcrowded in-person tech extravaganza -- they just built up a ravenous demand.

From VR to AI, eVTOLs and QD-OLED, the acronyms were flying and fresh technologies populated every corner of the show floor, and even the parking lot. So naturally, we poked, prodded, and tried on everything we could. They weren’t all revolutionary. But they didn’t have to be. We’ve watched enough waves of “game-changing” technologies that never quite arrive to know that sometimes it’s the little tweaks that really count.

Read more
Digital Trends’ Tech For Change CES 2023 Awards
Digital Trends CES 2023 Tech For Change Award Winners Feature

CES is more than just a neon-drenched show-and-tell session for the world’s biggest tech manufacturers. More and more, it’s also a place where companies showcase innovations that could truly make the world a better place — and at CES 2023, this type of tech was on full display. We saw everything from accessibility-minded PS5 controllers to pedal-powered smart desks. But of all the amazing innovations on display this year, these three impressed us the most:

Samsung's Relumino Mode
Across the globe, roughly 300 million people suffer from moderate to severe vision loss, and generally speaking, most TVs don’t take that into account. So in an effort to make television more accessible and enjoyable for those millions of people suffering from impaired vision, Samsung is adding a new picture mode to many of its new TVs.
[CES 2023] Relumino Mode: Innovation for every need | Samsung
Relumino Mode, as it’s called, works by adding a bunch of different visual filters to the picture simultaneously. Outlines of people and objects on screen are highlighted, the contrast and brightness of the overall picture are cranked up, and extra sharpness is applied to everything. The resulting video would likely look strange to people with normal vision, but for folks with low vision, it should look clearer and closer to "normal" than it otherwise would.
Excitingly, since Relumino Mode is ultimately just a clever software trick, this technology could theoretically be pushed out via a software update and installed on millions of existing Samsung TVs -- not just new and recently purchased ones.

Read more
AI turned Breaking Bad into an anime — and it’s terrifying
Split image of Breaking Bad anime characters.

These days, it seems like there's nothing AI programs can't do. Thanks to advancements in artificial intelligence, deepfakes have done digital "face-offs" with Hollywood celebrities in films and TV shows, VFX artists can de-age actors almost instantly, and ChatGPT has learned how to write big-budget screenplays in the blink of an eye. Pretty soon, AI will probably decide who wins at the Oscars.

Within the past year, AI has also been used to generate beautiful works of art in seconds, creating a viral new trend and causing a boon for fan artists everywhere. TikTok user @cyborgism recently broke the internet by posting a clip featuring many AI-generated pictures of Breaking Bad. The theme here is that the characters are depicted as anime characters straight out of the 1980s, and the result is concerning to say the least. Depending on your viewpoint, Breaking Bad AI (my unofficial name for it) shows how technology can either threaten the integrity of original works of art or nurture artistic expression.
What if AI created Breaking Bad as a 1980s anime?
Playing over Metro Boomin's rap remix of the famous "I am the one who knocks" monologue, the video features images of the cast that range from shockingly realistic to full-on exaggerated. The clip currently has over 65,000 likes on TikTok alone, and many other users have shared their thoughts on the art. One user wrote, "Regardless of the repercussions on the entertainment industry, I can't wait for AI to be advanced enough to animate the whole show like this."

Read more