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Campus Currents May 2007: Volume 4, Number 2

Bird in the Hand

Bird spotting just became a whole lot easier. An experimental iPad app can now identify most North American birds, with a little help from a human user. The app is essentially an interactive field guide, where computer vision algorithms analyze user-submitted bird photos, ask questions and display images and information about bird species that are likely matches.

Computer science professor Serge Belongie is leading the project, which is part of a larger move to fill a gap in the world of online search engines. While text-driven search engines, such as Google and Wikipedia, have been wildly successful, identifying images has so far proven much more difficult.

The Jacobs School of Engineering computer scientists are working with UC Berkeley and Caltech, as well as Cornell’s Laboratory of Ornithology, which contributed images of more than 500 North American species of birds.

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 and butterflies, to lichens and mushrooms.
Visit: vision.caltech.edu/ipad.html

—Ioana Patringenaru