Computer vision is helping sushi lovers enjoy top-quality maguro.

What’s new: Japanese restaurant chain Kura Sushi is using a smartphone app called Tuna Scope to grade its suppliers’ offerings, according to the news outlet The Asahi Shimbun.

How it works: Professional tuna graders assess tuna quality by examining a cross section of a fish’s tail for color, sheen, firmness, and fat patterns. The app, developed by Tokyo-based advertising and technology company Dentsu, mimics an experienced grader’s judgement.

  • The model was trained on 4,000 images of tuna tail cross sections annotated by human graders. In tests, the app’s grades matched those given by humans nearly 90 percent of the time.
  • Tuna sellers use the app to photograph a fish’s tail section, then send its automated assessment to Kura Sushi’s agents, who decide whether to purchase the fish.
  • In a promotional trial, the restaurant offered tuna ranked highly by the system in a Tokyo restaurant, where they branded it “AI Tuna.” Ninety percent of roughly 1,000 customers who tried it said they were satisfied.

Behind the news: Computer vision is proving helpful in other parts of the seafood supply chain.

  • Microsoft developed a tool that counts and measures farmed salmon, sparing workers boat trips to offshore pens.
  • NOAA scientists are developing a boat-towed camera that counts bottom-dwelling fish to help prevent overharvesting of Alaska’s wild pollock.

Why it matters: Kura Sushi normally purchases 70 percent of its tuna overseas, but Covid-19 travel restrictions have made it difficult to assess the catch on-site. The app enables the company to buy fish caught anywhere without sending employees to the docks.

We’re thinking: The engineers who built this app appear to be quite talented. We hope the company isn’t giving them a raw deal.

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