March 13, 2018
By Brad Muller | More Features
The use of artificial intelligence as a lifesaver may sound like something out of a science fiction movie, but former South Carolina equestrian student-athlete Alexa Anthony has made it a reality. Anthony is the CEO of Magic AI Corporation which has developed StableGuard as a product to save horses from preventable deaths or being stolen.
“StableGuard is a 24/7 intelligent monitoring and alert system for the horse industry,” Anthony said. “It’s a video camera in every horse’s stall that uses artificial intelligence software that is trained to recognize and understand horse behavior. We track that behavior over time, and we alert the horse owner of any major emergencies.
“Magic AI is a computer vision, machine-learning company which focuses on recognizing behavior characteristics in animals.”
The Seattle, Washington, native graduated from South Carolina in 2015 and returned to her hometown while working with Intellectual Ventures, the world’s largest intellectual property firm, where she learned about artificial intelligence and product development. That sparked an interest in becoming an entrepreneur. She came up with the idea for StableGuard after her favorite horse, Magic, died after suffering from colic, which is a common digestive infection in horses that can be deadly if not treated quickly.
“Magic was the horse that took me to the national finals in high school,” Anthony said. “He was my longtime partner and best friend. I didn’t have much of a social life outside of horseback riding. He got colic, which is the same thing babies get. It’s an intestinal illness, and if it goes untreated, it can be fatal. Magic came down with it on Christmas night, and I found him at 8 o’clock the next morning, and it was too late. Unfortunately, we had to put him down.”
Anthony noted that colic is the top cause of death in horses, but if there had been a way to notify her that something was wrong, Magic could have been treated.
Over time, the system can tell us what’s going on without us having to teach it. That’s the AI (artificial intelligence).
StableGuard is not simply a baby monitor with a camera in a horse stall. It’s a complex system in which the computer learns the behavior of its subject and can react accordingly for behavior that is out of the norm. It is currently the world’s only artificially intelligent 24/7 mobile device monitoring system being used to alert horse owners of emergencies or security issues with their horses. It sounds complicated, but Anthony said it’s similar to the way social media works.
“If I tag a picture of a friend on social media, and I tag their face, over time the computer will start to recognize that person’s facial characteristics,” Anthony explained. “Eventually, I won’t have to tag that person anymore, and it will start popping up suggestions whenever I post a picture of that person because it now knows what that person looks like. That’s facial recognition and machine-learning.
“Our system uses a very similar method where we tag hundreds of thousands of images of horses doing things; horse behavior, what it looks like for a horse to be standing up, laying down, wearing a blanket, drinking water, rolling around and things like that. Over time, the system can tell us what’s going on without us having to teach it. That’s the AI (artificial intelligence). Our customers like that they can check in at any time to see how their horse is doing, and they like that they can go back and see things through a feature we call ‘event playback.’ If we capture something, our system will send a 5 to 10 second clip to the user’s mobile app, so they can replay that event.”
StableGuard sends an alert to the owner’s mobile phone, although it’s more than just a downloadable app as much more goes into the set up with monitors in every stall which relay to an artificial intelligence computer.
Anthony incorporated the company in June 2017 and StableGuard went from inception to sales in approximately 90 days. It’s only been on the market since last December, and Anthony is working with her former teammate Katherine Schmidt, who is the Vice President for Sales and Marketing, along with three other former Gamecocks, to get the word out about StableGuard to members of the equine industry, including universities such as South Carolina who compete in equestrian, in the hopes of making a difference.
“It’s a team of us working together,” Anthony said. “I’ve spoken with Coach Boo (Major) at South Carolina. She is very excited about StableGuard and would love to get it installed at One Wood Farm. I’ve also had conversations with other schools around the country who want to get the system installed.
“Everyone we speak to has a story about colic, or a horse getting stolen, or having to put a horse down.”
For her efforts, Anthony was recently recognized with the Young Alumni Award as part of the 2018 National Collegiate Equestrian Association Distinguished Alumni Awards. These awards are presented to women who, after the completion of their undergraduate degree at an NCEA institution, have made significant contributions in a professional field.
“It really is an honor to be considered for the award,” Anthony said. “In the four years I spent at the University of South Carolina with the other young women on the team and competing with other women across the United States, there are a lot of high caliber women. It’s just an honor to be considered.”
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