What Kind of Bird is that? Snap a Picture and Find Out

May 09, 2014

Digital technology is about to add big data to the bird enthusiast’s traditional tools of binoculars and a field guide.
Peter Belhumeur, a Columbia computer science professor whose app for recognizing leaves was launched in 2011, has now created Birdsnap, an electronic guide for identifying birds. Birdsnap uses the computer technology that can recognize human faces to identify 500 common birds in North America.
“It’s all part of the same thing, using this technology to recognize the things around you,” says Belhumeur. While state-of-the-art facial recognition algorithms identify similarities between parts of the human face-the nose, chin or eye, for instance-Birdsnap homes in on parts of a bird-the beak, eye, wing, neck or feet and finds visual similarities to other birds. “It’s all automatic,” he says.
An expert in facial recognition, Belhumeur built Birdsnap with David Jacobs, a computer science professor at the University of Maryland, and a computer science Ph.D. candidate at Columbia, Thomas Berg.

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