ChatGPT is changing work at startups — and pet techs aren’t immune.
Cooper Pet Care, the Netherlands-based pet telehealth platform, started integrating ChatGPT for health queries. “When we started experimenting, we realised it was actually good, believe it or not,” says Michael Fisher, CEO and cofounder.
“Vets don’t keep all their information in their head. They use a lot of specialised resources that can be quite clunky and time-consuming. A lot of that, if you feed it to AI, works fairly well.”
A tool for vets
While GenAI tools like ChatGPT are effective for simpler cases like mild diarrhoea, for complex or urgent queries, like choking or perpetual vomiting, human expertise is key. But given the burnout in the profession, a triage tool which can handle straightforward questions could be a boon for vets.
At times, AI is even catching human error. One Twitter user said GPT-4 saved his dog’s life after a vet wrongly diagnosed his border collie Sassy’s condition. The pro version of ChatGPT was able to analyse blood test results.
But platforms like ChatGPT can produce errors and "hallucinate" facts. Fisher predicts the emergence of large language models (LLMs) trained on fully accurate veterinary information, which would be a significant improvement on both ChatGPT and conventional internet search. Google search results are not filtered by medical credibility, exposing consumers to inaccurate information that happens to rank highly in relevance-driven algorithms.
The adoption of AI by vets will take time, Fisher notes, as the profession is conservative. But he says younger vets are embracing AI as a helpful copilot.
Picking out a pet
Another UK-based pet tech, Camlist, is using GenAI as part of its effort to digitally streamline the pet ownership journey. They launched a GPT-powered assistant called Buddy in early 2023, according to Moustafa Mahmoud, founder and an experienced computer scientist.
“It was a ChatGPT wrapper for our customers. We rolled it out in one day and wanted to see how people were going to leverage LLMs,” he says.
Since then, Camlist has analysed interaction data to guide its broader AI integration effort.
“The first thing we noticed was that when you look for a pet in classified websites or Google, you might look at different breeds. But some people don’t know the best breed for their circumstances, their home, family life,” he says. “We thought that was an important journey: discovering the right pet.”
Camlist’s AI-powered breed recommendation tool takes a person's lifestyle, input via chat, and suggests the most suitable breeds, with explanations of why it matches their needs. Potential owners can ask further questions about the recommended breed.
A new way to engage with customers
For Mahmoud, the breakthrough of LLMs is not just the underlying technology but the emergence of this chat interface as a new mode of digital engagement.
“I think the chat prompt is going to be a user interface equivalent to the mouse,” he says. “People are going to get used to seeing it all over their devices and the internet.”
Camlist is also working on AI-powered pet training plans, covering everything from behaviour and potty training to feeding, based on breed and owner needs — sort of like a personal pet coach.
It also uses AI to auto-generate well-written listings for breeders, saving them time and better educating potential owners. By answering more of the typical questions potential owners have, these optimised listings will save breeders time down the line on follow-up communications.
Harnessing the visual capabilities of GenAI, Camlist has also started offering AI-generated custom pet portraits for owners to see their pets in guises from astronaut to Formula One driver.
The portraiture space is attracting startups elsewhere. US-based Pet Portrait AI is bullish on AI-powered pet art.
“My daughter would love to see my beefy terrier in a pink dress, I can make her laugh, I can put it on her pillow,” says Colter Bowman, chief technology officer at Mojo Creator.
He believes GenAI-originated portraits could be produced as iPad cases or rugs, or surprise birthday gifts for pet owners based on downloaded pet pictures from their social media. “Pet enthusiasts now have an option to apply customised art.”
This article first appeared in our monthly Unleashed pet tech newsletter, a collaboration with Purina Accelerator Lab. All content is editorially independent. Sign up to our newsletter here to keep up to date with the latest goings on in the European pet tech industry.