Nature lovers, amateur bird watchers and orinthologists have reason to cheer. The Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) collaborated with technology company Accenture to create Internet of Birds (http://internetofbirds.com/) — an online platform that identifies a bird after you've uploaded its photo.
This is the first such platform in India that helps identify bird species seen across the country, where many people find it difficult to identify birds unless they have access to experts or have previously read books on the subject.
Launched last week, Internet of Birds uses image recognition to identify bird species from a repository of digital photos on its site.
"The purpose of the platform is to help beginners and amateur birdwatchers identify birds easily," says BNHS' Bilwada Kale. For the likes of Rahulratan Chauhan, an avid bird watcher, the Internet of Birds is a "fresh initiative" that will help him deepen his hobby. "India has so far had nothing of this sort," says the 32-year-old. "The platform is a novel way to identify various bird species. I am sure it will go a long way."
Of the 1,300 species of birds present in India, only 316 species' information has been fed into the system, says Kale. But the platform, eight months in the making, has been designed for crowd sourcing so that if one uploads a photo of a bird, which isn't in the system, it advises the person to contact a bird expert or BNHS. Additionally, it will tag the photo and contribute it to BNHS so information on the bird can be added to the database later.
"Each time a picture is contributed to the system, it teaches itself, increasing accuracy in the recognition of bird species," says Sanjay Podder, managing director of Accenture Labs India. "We use technology to educate people on nature. The platform is still in its developing stages and there's lots more to come."
While the platform has been gaining the attention of nature lovers and bird watchers, users have been equally quick to offer suggestions. "The site is accurate but there can be more information in that it can educate the user about a few characteristics of the bird identified," feels Chauhan, who uploaded several photographs of various bird species. "For example, it should tell me how I can better identify a particular bird from different angles in its natural environment."
Adesh Shivkar uploaded 30 photos of birds on Internet of Birds earlier this week but the professional photographer, bird watcher and director of bird watching tours organiser Nature India, came away a wee bit disappointed about how the information was structured. "On the site, bird names are listed alphabetically instead of being placed in family groups," opines Shivkar. "For instance, the White Throated Kingfisher is placed below the White-Rumped Vulture and not with its family of Kingfishers — which are all jumbled. This makes it troublesome to identify how many species are there in each family."
Shivkar suggests that since India has so many bird species, the database would be better equipped to identify birds for amateurs if it has information of a majaority of birds. "It's not pleasant to constantly be advised to connect with a bird expert," he says, adding that since bird watchers are also travellers, the platform can be extended into an offline app since forests and remote birding environments don't always have internet access.
How to use Internet of Birds
- Log onto the http://internetofbirds.com/
- Click on the bird in the center of the screen and upload your image
- Contribute to BNHS by sending your bird photos to firstname.lastname@example.org