Scientists have developed artificial intelligence that can identify 200 species of birds from just a single photo, offering another way to quickly and cheaply monitor bird populations than the traditional in-person counts often used today. The technique, created by scientists at Duke University, uses deep learning, algorithms based on the way the human brain works.
The researchers fed nearly 12,000 photos of birds into the computer program. The system analyzed the images, learning in-depth the physical traits of 200 species. The program was then able to examine a photo, determine the exact species, and explain how it came to that conclusion. For example, “This isn’t just any warbler. It’s a hooded warbler, and here are the features — like its masked head and yellow belly — that give it away,” a Duke press release explained. The AI was able to correctly identify the species 84 percent of the time.
Similar technology is used in various applications today, from facial recognition on social media sites to autonomous vehicles. But the Duke scientists say their system’s ability to explain its decision is unique among AI.
The new system is the latest in a string of new AI-based conservation technology, enabling scientists to better monitor wildlife, particularly in remote regions where motion-sensor cameras are increasingly being used track species.