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Google develops AI algorithm to help zoos

Artificial intelligence comes to save the day once again, but this time targeting a slightly different market.

By April Slattery

Google is working in partnership with researchers from the Zoological Society of London to develop technology that will detect poachers.

The pair will use artificial intelligence (AI) to detect poachers and recognise animals by analysing heat and motion captured images, which would normally be done manually.

Google has developed an algorithm specially designed using a million and a half images.. The algorithm has been taught to recognise animals from one another using previous examples. Once the data set has been completed, the algorithm can adopt new images and recognise the images featured in the vision.

Using the algorithm aims to not only better protect animals from poachers, but benefit keepers and wildlife conservations by helping to identify animals quicker through a better analysis process.

Google develops AI algorithm to help zoos“Machine learning has the potential to really speed up our analysis of these images to help species identification,” says Sophie Maxwell, Conservation Technology Lead at ZSL.

“It also helps us to detect poachers in the field. We can download the algorithms to sit on the cameras themselves, so that they can detect humans in the images in real time, and raise alerts of those in protected areas so that we can respond to these threats.”

Although the technology can prove useful with analysis, the identification process has come under fire for its accuracy. Last year, skiers were miss-identified for a dog. Similar cases have been recorded from the use of AI in autonomous vehicles, not identifying a stop sign as it was covered in graffiti. Therefore developments to identify subtle variations must be continued.

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Despite the concerns accuracy is expected to improve according to Matt McNeil, Head of Google Cloud Customer Engineering. He said: “As you start creating more extensive models which are trained on much larger datasets they start becoming much more resilient to changes in pixels. Being able to be more accurate really.”

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Though there are still improvements to be made, the concept Google has developed could drastically improve the safety of wildlife animals and in turn help save endangered species.

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