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Computer scientists develop an interactive field guide app for birders
Date:5/8/2012

will label the images and expand the database further. The ultimate goal is to have 100 images identified by experts for each species.

"We are helping Visipedia reach an audience of birders who are hungry for this kind of technology," said Jessie Barry, a researcher at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

The hope is that the app will strengthen the users' connection to the natural world and their desire to preserve natural habitats. Barry and her team are recruiting citizen scientists through the lab's website, allaboutbirds.org, which has more than one million unique visitors a month. When researchers asked birders to help label birds' colors for Visipedia earlier this year, they received one answer a minute, on average. Birders are eager to help train the Visipedia system, Barry said, because they know it will ultimately become a tool that will help them in the field.

Belongie hopes the app will ignite a movement among other enthusiasts, who will partner with computer scientists to create similar apps for everything from flowers, to butterflies, to lichens and mushrooms.

"We can't solve all the challenges by ourselves, but we believe our framework can," Belongie said.

How the app works: the user experience

Users upload their pictures to an iPad equipped with the Visipedia app. The app's algorithms process the picture and display a series of results deemed a good match. Sometimes the app is spot on. But sometimes, it requires some additional help from the user.

To find a more accurate result, the app will ask the user to identify a specific part of the bird in the original picture, such as the head, the tail or the wing. Sometimes, the app also will ask what colors can be found on that part of the bird. Based on the user's answers, the app generates more results, until it finds the correct answer.

This method is similar to a game of 20 questions, played between the system and the user. But the system analyzes the image firs
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Contact: Ioana Patringenaru
ipatrin@ucsd.edu
858-822-0899
University of California - San Diego
Source:Eurekalert  

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