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UC San Diego scientists unveil pilot project for automated monitoring of animal behavior

San Diego, Tuesday, February 10, 2004 -- Computer scientists and animal care experts at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) have come up with a new way to automate the monitoring of mice and other animals in laboratory research. Combining cameras and distributed, non-invasive sensors with elements of computer vision, information technology and artificial intelligence, the Smart Vivarium project aims to enhance the quality of animal research, while at the same time enabling better health care for animals.

The pilot project is led by Serge Belongie, an assistant professor in Computer Science and Engineering at UCSD's Jacobs School of Engineering. It is funded entirely by the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology [Cal-(IT)], a joint venture of UCSD and UC Irvine. "Today a lot of medical research relies on drug administration and careful monitoring of large numbers of live mice and other animals, usually in cages located in a vivarium," said Belongie. "But it is an entirely manual process, so there are limitations on how often observations can be made, and how thoroughly those observations can be analyzed."

Belongie put together an interdisciplinary team to develop the hardware and software for automated, 24-hour-a-day monitoring and archiving of a continuous stream of measurements on animal behavior -- rather than periodic observations by a lab technician. So far, Belongie has demonstrated his computer-vision and pattern-recognition software with data from a single cage, but the deployment inside a full-scale vivarium is still in the proposal stages. Noted Belongie: "We are now hoping to embark on a multi-million-dollar project that would allow us to develop and deploy the technology for two key areas -- medical research, and emergency response."

UCSD is a major biological sciences research center, and animal-care specialists believe the technology under development could dramatically improve the care
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Contact: Doug Ramsey
dramsey@ucsd.edu
858-822-5825
University of California - San Diego
10-Feb-2004


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