Scientists want pictures of your poo to help train AI to analyse stool samples.
Scientists want pictures of your poo to help train AI to analyse stool samples.

Why scientists want pics of your poo

Microbial scientists are pleading for people to send them pictures of their poo as they seek to build the biggest database of fecal photos to train an app that helps people improve their gut health.

Microbial science and health company Seed has partnered with a "digital gut health coach" being developed by a team of scientists from several top universities in the US.

Seed's #GIVEASHIT campaign dares "citizen scientists" to take their phone with them to the bathroom next time in order to contribute pictures for the database.

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"Every day, you flush away a goldmine of data," the campaign's website says. "Your poop's size, shape, colour, texture, consistency and frequency can offer important insights into your overall health."

The website, which only loads properly on smartphones, asks people to take a photo of their next bowel movement and anonymously upload it.

The pictures will be stripped of identifying information before being added to the database, which will then be used to train the AI app.

While Seed makes money selling synbiotic supplements, those who submit their poo pics will be doing so voluntarily and aren't entitled to any compensation.

The pictures are being collected to advance gut health science.
The pictures are being collected to advance gut health science.

The terms and conditions state users who upload are doing so "to better diagnose gastrointestinal disorders and to advance human gut science".

The way they plan to do that is by training a machine to automate the process of analysing a stool sample.

Stool sample analysis can provide valuable insights into what's going on in the delicate ecosystem of our bodies.

The Bristol stool scale is used to rank samples into one of seven types.

Two indicate constipation and two diarrhoea, with the other three indicating normal stools or ones that are lacking in fibre.

The scientists are trying to train the AI to compare samples with the Bristol stool chart. Picture: Cabot Health, Bristol Stool Chart
The scientists are trying to train the AI to compare samples with the Bristol stool chart. Picture: Cabot Health, Bristol Stool Chart

While this analysis is currently done by doctors and researchers, Seed hopes it and the associated auggi AI platform can automate the process, cutting down analysis time and freeing up human analysts to focus on other work.

It's also hoped auggi will learn to recognise patterns and predict gut problems in patients to make recommendations.

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The scientists have already been training the AI using clay models but are now looking to improve the analysis and speed up the process by soliciting images of real poo.

Users are able to share as many different poos as they like.

They'll also have the opportunity to win cool merch, including hats, shirts, pencils, and rolls of toilet paper with the Bristol stool scale printed on them.

The researchers are giving away some limited-edition merch to a select few stool sharers.
The researchers are giving away some limited-edition merch to a select few stool sharers.

While some may find it strange to send a picture of your poo over the internet, there are, of course, widespread and established communities of people online who not only don't have a problem with sharing pics of their poo but actively enjoy doing so.

Several sections on popular message board Reddit and hashtags on Instagram are devoted to dumping photos of poo on the internet.

An early viral hit online - years before social media facilitated virality to the extent we know it now - the website RateMyPoo gave users a chance to compete against one another from the comfort of their toilet seat.

Many of these images would be unhelpful in training AI as they tend to focus on more extreme fecal feats, whereas the scientists in charge of auggi are looking for representative images of people's "everyday" poos.

Would you send a pic of your poo for science? Let us know in the comments below.


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