Free “Shazam” for Nature App Identifies Plants and Animals From Your Phone
The smartphone allows you to identify any song while you’re out and about through an app called “Shazam.” But have you ever wished you could hold your phone up to nature and do the same?
In a manner of speaking you can. Not only is the Seek app free, but you and your family can earn badges for your identifications, which help grow citizen science.
Released earlier this month by iNaturalist—an online social network for nature enthusiasts—the new app, Seek, is part of an ongoing attempt to involve ordinary people in citizen science projects. Similar to Shazam—an app that allows you to identify music from audio recordings—the Seek app allows you to identify plants and animals from your photos by harnessing image recognition technology.
Whether you’re exploring the great outdoors or your own backyard, using the app encourages curious adventurers to become engaged with the wildlife around them. Fun and educational for kids and adults alike, users can earn badges while they learn about each new species they photograph.
Seek draws from existing data collected from wildlife observations on iNaturalist, in combination with artificial intelligence and neural network technologies. Once downloaded, users are provided with lists of commonly recorded insects, birds, plant life, and animals in their area. When a new photo is uploaded, the AI analyzes the photo to find a match, adds it to the user’s growing collection, and provides a summary of information from Wikipedia. The AI currently recognizes 30,000 species, and will continue to improve with further use. The site’s co-founder Scott Loarie explains, “The only way we can improve our modeling of species is to get more data, and to do that we need more people outside taking pictures.”
You can download the Seek app on iOS devices.
Without being Luddites, we’ve kept a wary eye on A.I. due to the tendency of governments and corporations to use technology in an invasive way on citizens.
However, using technology to be able to identify tens of thousands of plants and animals would be a delightful and powerful way to harness technology, especially for teens who have been vulnerable to mental destruction thanks to smart phones.
We haven’t used the app, but the concept of it would probably open up the world to children instead of drown them in the addictive glow of screens. Instead of falling prey to the dopamine hits of Facebook, imagine getting outside and having something to show for it later?
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About Melinda Cafferty – When she isn’t busy pointing at nature saying “what’s that? what’s that?” she sometimes writes for Natural Blaze!