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This AI birdwatcher lets you ‘see’ through the eyes of a machine

It can take years of birdwatching experience to tell one species from the next. But using an artificial intelligence technique called deep learning, Duke University researchers have trained a computer to identify up to 200 species of birds from just a photo.

The real innovation, however, is that the A.I. tool also shows its thinking, in a way that even someone who doesn’t know a penguin from a puffin can understand.

The team trained their deep neural network — algorithms based on the way the brain works — by feeding it 11,788 photos of 200 bird species to learn from, ranging from swimming ducks to hovering hummingbirds.

The researchers never told the network “this is a beak” or “these are wing feathers.” Given a photo of a mystery bird, the network is able to pick out important patterns in the image and hazard a guess by comparing those patterns to typical species traits it has seen before.

Along the way it spits out a series of heat maps that essentially say:

“This isn’t just any warbler. It’s a hooded warbler, and here are the features — like its masked head and yellow belly — that give it away.”

Duke computer science Ph.D. student Chaofan Chen and undergraduate Oscar Li led the research, along with other team members of the Prediction Analysis Lab directed by Duke professor Cynthia Rudin.

They found their neural network is able to identify the correct species up to 84% of the time — on par with some of its best-performing counterparts, which don’t reveal how they are able to tell, say, one sparrow from the next.

Rudin says their project is about more than naming birds. It’s about visualizing what deep neural networks are really seeing when they look at an image.

Similar technology is used to tag people on social networking sites, spot suspected criminals in surveillance cameras, and train self-driving cars to detect things like traffic lights and pedestrians.

The problem, Rudin says, is that most deep learning approaches to computer vision are notoriously opaque. Unlike traditional software, deep learning software learns from the data without being explicitly programmed. As a result, exactly how these algorithms ‘think’ when they classify an image isn’t always clear.

Rudin and her colleagues are trying to show that A.I. doesn’t have to be that way. She and her lab are designing deep learning models that explain the reasoning behind their predictions, making it clear exactly why and how they came up with their answers. When such a model makes a mistake, its built-in transparency makes it possible to see why.

For their next project, Rudin and her team are using their algorithm to classify suspicious areas in medical images like mammograms. If it works, their system won’t just help doctors detect lumps, calcifications and other symptoms that could be signs of breast cancer. It will also show which parts of the mammogram it’s homing in on, revealing which specific features most resemble the cancerous lesions it has seen before in other patients.

In that way, Rudin says, their network is designed to mimic the way doctors make a diagnosis. “It’s case-based reasoning,” Rudin said. “We’re hoping we can better explain to physicians or patients why their image was classified by the network as either malignant or benign.”

The team is presenting a paper on their findings at the Thirty-third Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems (NeurIPS 2019) in Vancouver on December 12.

Other authors of this study include Daniel Tao and Alina Barnett of Duke and Jonathan Su at MIT Lincoln Laboratory.

Source: Science Daily

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Science & Technology

Scientists have created a robotic eye that is completely similar to human

The developers plan to make it completely autonomous due to power from sunlight.

Scientists have created an artificial eye, the device of which almost completely copies the structure of the human organ of vision. Its diameter is about two centimeters, it has a retina made of nanowires and a lens for focusing light instead of the lens. The article describing the development was published by the scientific journal Nature.

We can see due to the fact that the light that enters the eyes passes inside them through the lens system and enters the photoreceptors in the retina. They convert particles of light into signals that are transmitted to the brain. Scientists have long been trying to reconstruct this complex system to create robots or in order to try to restore lost vision to people.

Another and relatively successful attempt to achieve this was made by scientists led by Zhiyong Fang of Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. The artificial eye that they created looks like a ball about two centimeters in diameter, filled with a fluid that conducts electric current. The eye of an adult is about the same size, inside it is also filled with a jelly-like liquid.

The device can see thanks to an artificial retina made of photosensitive nanowires. They are made on the basis of perovskite – a hybrid material, which due to its unique structure is now widely used in solar panels. Nanowires react to light and transmit a signal about it further like the photoreceptors of the human eye.

To test whether this eye can see, scientists projected images of several letters onto it. The device successfully recognized the letters I, E, and Y. However, while it creates an image of rather poor quality – about 100 pixels, compared with 120-140 megapixels of the human eye.

For operation, the device needs an external power source. However, scientists plan to make the artificial eye self-contained so that the device works like a small solar cell.

Among other plans of scientists – to check whether it is possible to subculture these nanowires to the human optical nerve. In addition, the developers hope to increase the quality of the picture to the level of the human eye and even surpass it by an order of magnitude.

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Is humanity getting dumber?

Shot from the movie "Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd"

For most of human history, people have become smarter. But now the opposite is true. If in the past the average IQ score increased, now everything is going in the opposite direction and people are getting dumber. 

You just don’t think – this is not a judgment, but a fact: in many leading countries, IQ indicators began to decline. And at this very time, technology is becoming smarter. Creepy, right? But it really gets scary from the fact that there are many scientific studies confirming that humanity is rapidly becoming stupid. Moreover, scientists seriously fear for our common future. Does this really mean that idiocracy – the degradation of the world’s population due to the rapid deterioration of people’s mental abilities – is inevitable?

The film “Dumb and Dumber” shows what life can be like for people of the future. 
No kidding


An IQ test or intelligence test measures parameters such as spatial thinking, vocabulary size, the ability to abstract mind-sets, and classify information.

Were people smarter in the past?

According to the famous psychologist James Flynn, a huge number of factors affect our intellectual abilities – from air quality to choosing a life partner. Also, do not underestimate the influence of random factors – as the BBC Future writes , even a job loss or personal tragedy can negatively affect the level of intelligence. Moreover, researchers agree that in general about 80% of adult intelligence is predetermined by genes.

Flynn, a professor at New Zealand University of Otago, is seriously concerned about the future of mankind. The professor is convinced that the views of the younger generation on current problems are too superficial, which leaves much room for manipulation of their consciousness by politicians and the media. However, in general, the scientist looks at the situation positively. The fact is that in the first half of the twentieth century, Flynn discovered an obvious increase in IQ indicators. This effect is called the Flynn effect. But if we really got smarter half a century ago, then what happens today?

People are getting stupid at the same pace as they used to get smarter

According to the results of an already famous study of scientists from the Norwegian Ragnar Frisch Center for Economic Research, the level of intelligence today drops by an average of seven points in ten years. In the course of their work, the researchers analyzed the 730,000 IQ tests that Norwegian men underwent before compulsory military service from 1970 to 2009.

If this trend continues – and the study has been severely criticized because of the limited sample – after about 10 generations, the IQ level will drop from 130 (“very high”) to 69 (“extremely low”). But there is even more frightening news – experts found that every decade IQ fell by 1.23 points. This means that over the course of a century and a half, the overall decline has already reached 14 points. It is noteworthy that what is happening there are many potential explanations, ranging from environmental issues and the quality of food, ending with the lack of exercise and a long stay at the computer.

Do you alos having problems understand what is written on the board? 
What does that say about you?

The forecast of scientists is not at all comforting: if this continues further, then in the not too distant future, a person in his mental abilities will approach a … developed monkey.

No less exciting are the results of another study, this time larger. A few years ago, an international team of scientists wanted to test the level of education of modern people and residents of the Victorian era from 1837 to 1901. The conclusions were not comforting – about a century and a half ago, people were much more developed and inventive.

Scientists came to such conclusions after evaluating the reaction rate – in 1889, the reaction rate of men was 183 milliseconds, but men of the 21st century react to external stimuli at a speed of 253 milliseconds. For women, everything is about the same – instead of 188 milliseconds in the 19th century, the reaction rate dropped to the 261st millisecond. Such slowness and inhibition, as the researchers note, is a weak coefficient of intelligence in humans.

Unfortunately, Flynn today admits that IQ growth in the 20th century has staggered. A number of studies using a variety of well-established IQ tests and metrics have revealed declines in Scandinavia, the UK, Germany, France and Australia. Details vary from research to research and from place to place. But the overall picture has become much clearer: since the 21st century, many of the most economically developed countries have faced a decline in IQ.

Well, reverse evolution is evolution too!

Are we waiting for idiocy?

As in the film “Idiocracy”, the assumption that the average intelligence of mankind is reduced due to the fact that families with lower IQ have more children (dysgenic fertility) has been repeatedly expressed. However, a study conducted in Norway in 2018 showed that IQ falls not only in different societies, but also in families. Even children born to parents with high IQ roll down the IQ ladder. Some environmental factor — or a combination of factors — causes a decrease in the IQ of parents and their own children, as well as older children and their younger brothers and sisters.

In the end, it will be great if we can determine the exact reason for the decline in IQ before we finally go stupid. By the way, the fact that everyone sets new temperature records – and heat reduces mental abilities by as much as 13% – also does not add optimism. One way or another, the problem really exists and requires the attention of researchers around the world. Especially in view of the threats that climate change poses to the world.

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U.S. Navy laser creates plasma UFOs

The U.S. Navy’s laser is capable of producing two- and three-dimensional plasma images that outsiders can mistake for unidentified flying objects (UFOs), Forbes writes , citing a corresponding U.S. patent.

According to the magazine, a similar Navy technology is designed to trick infrared missile sensors with homing warheads. In particular, the laser is placed in the tail of the aircraft, and the corresponding plasma target is created at almost any distance from the aircraft.

Image: United States Navy

Popular Mechanics were skeptical about this explanation of the nature of UFOs. The publication believes that only some of the disclosed incidents related to unidentified flying objects can be explained by the use of lasers. In particular, according to Popular Mechanics, precisely such plasma images are visible with the AN / ASQ-228 Advanced Targeting Forward-Looking Infrared (ATFLIR) camera of the F / A-18E / F Super Hornet fighter.

In April, the Pentagon officially unveiled and recognized the authenticity of three short UFO videos.

In October 2019, The Drive announced that the U.S. Army had confirmed a contract with To The Stars Academy of Arts & Science (TTSA), created with the participation of former Blink-182 frontman Tom Delong, to study supposedly artificially created physical artifacts of alien origin.

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