Need a name for your guinea pig? Forget about the usual inspiration sources like food, characters from movies or books, or celebrities. Consider instead: Popchop, Fuzzable, Spockers, or After Pie. Unique, right? But where did these names come from? The simple answer is a computer, but there’s much more to this story.

Guinea Pigs With A Need

two guinea pigs
Can you possibly get better guinea pig names than these? Portland Guinea Pig Rescue/Facebook

It begins with research scientist Janelle Shane, whose Tumblr blog features posts about fun results she’s had training neural networks. Neural networks deal with the learning ability of computers. It’s software that doesn’t just follow the rules a programmer gives it; it analyses data and learns on its own. The key element to this is inputting data that the neural networks can examine. She invites people to send her suggestions for new datasets to train the neural networks on.

Someone at the Portland Guinea Pig Rescue contacted her asking if she had ever trained a neural network to generate guinea pig names. This was new territory for Shane.

“I was fairly certain that this particular feat had not yet been tried in the history of machine learning research,” she writes in her blog.

The Portland Guinea Pig Rescue needed new names for the many guinea pigs it rescues. Shane asked them for a list of names they already had, the data was input into the neural network, and the results were amazing.

“Yes, despite having no concept of what these furry round rodents actually are, a neural network is indeed uncannily good at naming them,” Shane writes.

The Good, The Bad, And The Bizarre

guinea pig named Hanger Dan
Yes, this guinea pig from the Portland Guinea Pig Rescue was named by a neural network. Portland Guinea Pig Rescue/Facebook

Of course, working with neural networks doesn’t always lead to perfect results. Detours on the road to success lurk everywhere. But Shane doesn’t mind. She explains why in an interview with Recursor.

“In some ways, when it’s generating hilarious nonsense, that’s my goal. The mistakes are actually what I’m interested in — seeing what kind of interesting mistakes the neural network comes up with.”

On her blog, she lists some of the guinea pig names that perhaps aren’t quite so good. These include Madly Mean, Boooy, Butty Brlomy, and Moonyhen.

But the good names are pretty good. Shane’s list of good names include Hanger Dan, Fabsy, Pugger P, Splanky, and Mumkle.

Meet The Guinea Pigs

At the Portland Guinea Pig Rescue, you can already see some of the newly generated names and the guinea pigs who won these monikers. Although all the guinea pig names aren’t generated by neural network, they’re all interesting. And now that they have adorable, unique names, could a new home be far behind for these guinea pigs? Let’s hope for speedy adoptions into loving forever homes for them all.

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