February 19, 2007 |
Robot ornithologists search for rare bird! Birdwatchers have a new high-tech weapon in their arsenal, an automated birdwatcher-robot. According to the press release, the new device has been placed in a US wildlife reserve in Arkansas to catch a fleeting glimpse of the elusive Ivory Billed Woodpecker (not to be confuse with its cousin Woody). This woodpecker was once thought to be extinct, but sightings in 2004 have renewed hope that the bird still exists. The observation robot uses two video cameras to capture continuous images of the sky which are evaluated for evidence of bird life by sophisticated software. Any data that the system does not identify as being a bird is discarded.
No pictures of the red (woody), white or black ivory woodpeckers have turned up yet. Unconfirmed sightings trickle in but the last confirmed sighting was of a lonely unpaired female in 1944. Since then, decades of searching have yielded nothing and hope of ever finding the bird diminished until the latest unconfirmed sightings. Deforestation forced the once common bird out of its habitat, as has been the case with so many species. Human searches in the wetland forests of the lower Mississippi can be difficult and human presence can often disrupt animal behavior.
The device has a self contained hard drive for storing the 2 mega pixel images. The container is conspicuously labeled "Radiation Hazard" to deter hunters from using the device for target practice. The scientists have obviously not studied the shooting habits of the average southern redneck, for most of them would shoot first and then bet on what would happen next.
Advanced algorithms analyze each frame (must be a Google system) and discards images that it does not believe are birds. At the moment, falling leaves and low flying helicopters can confuse the system (see SEO is out for woodpeckers too). The next step is to make the system determine what is a woodpecker versus an average bird.
The creators believe that the system can be utilized to track other elusive wildlife like gorillas, bears or in surveillance applications. The research was presented at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in San Francisco.
Web 2.0 Applications
Daytona Beach, Spring Break – The algorithm could be tested here by placing it on the beach in an effort to differentiate the elusive red beaked gold digger bimbos from the average bimbos. I suspect that human testing ala Wikia might be in order to perfect any such system of higher order bird watching. Perhaps collaboration between humans and machines would be helpful in the programming? The data could be streamed thru YouTube or Veoh so that "researchers" could be polled for the database.
Employment Interviews 2.0 – Prospective employers could utilize the advanced software to evaluate lazy, unmotivated prospective employees before the interview even starts. Disguised as a receptionist, the robot could just tell unworthy applicants: "We will be in touch", saving millions of wasted corporate dollars.
Open Looney Tune Video Submissions – Robots could be placed at nightclubs and other hot spots with WiFi unlinks so that constant video could be evaluated for humor, sexiness and overall stupidity and fed directly to community users.
I am sure you can all come up with even more innovative testing venues and ideas. Part of me suspects that the elusive Ivory Billed Woodpecker learned a long time ago to hide really well from people. We will need Sony or some other high tech company to come up with cyber-woodpecker if we are going to find these pesky little birds again.
Late breaking news: A bird named Elvis may have already been found without robot technology! See the story! This may leave the latest bird watching bot free in time for Spring break testing on some other birds!