Every week we’re telling stories of Microsoft technology, as well as the people behind that technology. The topic for this week’s Technology helps Snow Leopard. Which is a term that we made up so yeah! What’s the cutest animal? This might get contested. There are puppies and kittens and all like the favorites. I’m a big fan of baby goats and like pygmy goats.
They’re just hopping everywhere and have you ever seen the video of Buttercup and she like jumps on another goat and like parkours off of them and backflips and they’re like very acrobatic baby goats. I follow this Instagram handle called Round Boys. Its photos of animals that are very round. A baby bird that’s like very round or like a tiny mouse or a dog that has been groomed into a spherical fur baby.
I think we can agree that there is a huge opportunity for artificial intelligence in the world. Every day, AI became it’s everywhere. It’s obviously benefiting us; it’s infused into the products that we’re using every day how are we extending the power of into the Wild Kingdom? How Snow Leopard’s selfies and AI can help save the species from extinction? We’re talking Snow Leopard selfies today.
Kaustubh Sharmais what you would call a cat scientist with a daunting task. As a wildlife man of science learning one in each of the world’s most luxurious, down like caudate and elusive huge cats, Snow Leopards. So cuddly, they’re vicious – but they’re cuddly. Snow Leopards are incredibly elusive. Kaustubh has been following them for many years and he’s only had two confirmed sightings of these cats. I didn’t realize they were that rare. What a dedicated man. They’re wearing their invisibility cloaks on the mountain. But the estimated population of Snow Leopards has dwindled from 6,000 to 4,000, but because they’re so exclusive we have no idea what the exact number is.
Snow Leopard and Camera
There’s this great interest in studying them to figure out how we can preserve the Snow Leopard population. One of the ways that we’ve figured out how to do this is by embedding cameras with heat and motion sensors into the habitat of these Snow Leopards. When animals, hopefully, the Snow Leopards, are walking by the cameras we can get a shot of them. But as you can imagine there are a lot of misfires on these selfies. They’re also taking photos of other animals, mountain goats!
I was just saying there must be goats everywhere. Yeah, so you’re trying to get these majestic Snow Leopard photos and then all of a sudden, a goat is all up in the frame. Another problem is because they’re on the mountains, a lot of them are getting just covered by avalanches, but when the cameras do go off, we’re getting a lot of photos. 30 to 60 cameras could generate between 200 and 300 thousand images so if you think of all of those misfires, all of the rogue goats that are getting into the shot, there’s a lot of data to process there.
So Kaustubh and the Snow Leopard Trust are using the power of AI to sort through and categorize all of these images and pull out the ones that are actually getting the Snow Leopard in the shot. Are they able to recognize different Snow Leopards at this point? That is the next step. Wild book is doing a lot of photo aggregation and leveraging AI and machine learning to identify individual animals within a species like Frank the hammerhead shark. But we’re not there with the Snow Leopard yet. That’s coming soon. I’m really excited to start identifying those individual Snow Leopards.
I’m going to be talking about a different species called purple martins. They migrate 6,000 miles between the Amazon forests in Brazil to Walt Disney World. Every year and of all places, they have a pretty big set of nests in the Animal Kingdom. They’re taking their annual family trip to Disney Land. They’re frequent fliers. They have an annual pass. So, Microsoft is pairing up with Disney’s Emerging Technologies team, as well as Disney’s animal science and environment team. And they’re trying to understand more about purple martins. Their populations are also declining. It’s fallen 40% since 1966, similar to the Snow Leopards, they have little cave dwellings. So, it’s really hard to kind of look in and sees.
They would see birds flying with a giant dragonfly, and they’re like, do they feed that to one of their chicks or all of them, not really understanding what makes a good purple Martin parent, right? And what can we do to help create better environments for them to parent? We’re investing in the parenting skills of purple martins. We’re like good job parents, here’s what you can do more Microsoft and Disney are creating smart birdhouses now. Created these man-made essentially, gourd-shaped homes with cameras inside, temperature sensors, humidity sensors, pressure sensors. Purple martins are awesome, they’re like yeah help us out, we’ll help you out. They have all these call poles mounted all around the different resorts, including the animal kingdom and they’ve created a bird resort.
Martins and Cloud
Like I mentioned HD cameras, they have all these sensors that are linked up to the cloud. You have these like intelligent cloud. The edge kind of is in the gourd. They’ve also created like noiseless fans in there to keep it cool and regulated. And they run temperature checks, it’s very cozy. It’s like a five-star resort for these birds. They’re living large now they’re live March. Just really cool to see us partnering up with Walt Disney to study these birds, but also just creating better habitat and environment for them using our technologies. So, whether it’s capturing selfies of Snow Leopards or investigating the living situation of purple martins, technology can be used to give us a better point of view on our animal friends.
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