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Computers Seek The Call Of An Extinct Bird

timothy posted more than 12 years ago | from the tweet-echelon-tweet dept.

Science 28

Buran writes: "As a self-proclaimed geek and a relative (and fascinated!) newcomer to the world of birding, I found this article in the New York Times Science Tuesday about the search for the ivory-billed woodpecker to be rather interesting. The bird, which was listed as extinct in 1997, has not been definitively sighted since the 1950s, but a recent reported sighting (in 1999) has led to a redoubled effort to find it. The geek side is this: Since it would be impractical for a human to sift through 5,000 hours of recorded sound (two and a half years, they estmate) to listen for the bird's distinctive call, the Cornell researchers are working on algorithms that can pick out interesting sections of digitally recorded sound, taken from microphones placed throughout the study area, for a human (who can outdo a computer any day at making the final determination) to review. I am hopeful that the search will return a positive result."

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Humans better? (2)

Deanasc (201050) | more than 12 years ago | (#3114125)

I would think that the computer can match exact wave forms far better than the computer could.

Re:Humans better? (2, Insightful)

spt (557979) | more than 12 years ago | (#3114148)

If it is a long complicated call, interspersed with other bird noises, the computer can find the frequencies but the human is better at the pattern recognition to see if it is the right call or a freak concurrence of other noises with a similar frequency signature.

Re:Humans better? (2, Insightful)

guiding_knight (550855) | more than 12 years ago | (#3114150)

Exact waveforms yes, but when was the last time you heard two identical bird calls, even by the same species, or the same bird? An exact waveform match just will not be flexible enough for this application, thus the general match and a human reviewer.

Re:Humans better? (3, Insightful)

Ledge (24267) | more than 12 years ago | (#3114156)

You would have to assume that all ivory billed woodpeckers sounded exactly alike, which they don't. The human brain is way better at fuzzy stuff than a box is. I once saw a program on TV about this in regards to facial recognition. The computer was great at it, as long as it was easy to get the primary facial measurements. Throw in some distortion and the computer got lost on a sample that the human eye could easily identify

Re:Humans better? (1)

drewbradford (458480) | more than 12 years ago | (#3128193)

There is no doubt that the human brrain is better at the "fuzzy stuff" than a computer is, but computers aren't always as bad at it as some people think.

I know that there are a lot of "intelligent" matching algorithms now being developed and deployed that can see patterns even with distortion. I have heard rumors of some facial recognition software that was being considered for deployal at O'Hare International Airport last year (I don't know if it actually was or not), but the technology seemed to be proficient at picking up criminals/suspects even if they did some altering of their facial features, such as grow a beard, wear thick glasses, or get a tan.

My point is that certainly the human brain is better at picking up the "fuzzy stuff", but computers are getting better and better at it.

Re:Humans better? (1)

bmorton (170477) | more than 12 years ago | (#3118842)

I would think that the computer could match exact wave forms exactly the same as the computer could.

Re:Humans better? (1)

panthro (552708) | more than 12 years ago | (#3119579)

Only as long as it's not using Windows.

Hrm. (0, Flamebait)

Anztac (322182) | more than 12 years ago | (#3114134)

Funny, we kill aproximitly 20,000 species a year, is this supposed to be some sort of repentence, nasalga, or just plain shallow geekdom?

Hrm indeed. (4, Funny)

DocMiata (182708) | more than 12 years ago | (#3114153)

And after sifting through 5,000 hours of sound, they discovered that what they heard was the kid down the street playing Sim-Ivory-Billed-Woodpecker 2002.

Re:Hrm. (0, Troll)

Anztac (322182) | more than 12 years ago | (#3114170)

Flaimbait my ass, harsh reality perhaps.

Solution... (1)

wholesomegrits (155981) | more than 12 years ago | (#3114141)

The geek side is this: Since it would be impractical for a human to sift through 5,000 hours of recorded sound (two and a half years, they estmate)

This is a trivial problem: you pay the listener by the hour.

Ivory-built woodpecker (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3114149)

Sounds like a deviant sex toy to me.

It probably makes a buzzing sound.

They Did This With Dinosaur Calls (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3114163)

Based on the chamber sinuses in the fossilzed heads. WAV and MPEGS here [] .

RealTime plus Camera? (2, Interesting)

n2kra (553436) | more than 12 years ago | (#3114475)

can't read the article (registration) BUT

I wonder if it can be done RealTime, (how good are the current gen DSPs) and the
direction triangulated with 3 or more mics to point a camera in the right direction?

Re:RealTime plus Camera? (3, Funny)

Hektor_Troy (262592) | more than 12 years ago | (#3117152)

And once the bird has been located, we cover the area with poison, to get the bird collected, just to prove, that it's not extinct.

got an idea.. (-1)

HBD (450014) | more than 12 years ago | (#3115322)

..just tell them to goto the guys that now own the modded(shit ver) of napster..they are good at scaning digital autio arn't they?

Seems so simple (1)

Zelet (515452) | more than 12 years ago | (#3115642)

This is a simple observation, but it still amazes me that as far as we have come with computing power, we still haven't even come close to the fuzzy abilities of nature/evolution. Even raw computational power of the human brain is staggering. It makes me humbled when I think of how much better nature is at this "programming/hardware" design than we are! :)

Re:Seems so simple (1)

ShavenYak (252902) | more than 12 years ago | (#3119953)

It makes me humbled when I think of how much better nature is at this "programming/hardware" design than we are! :)

Of course, keep in mind that Nature has been building brains for millions of years; we've only been doing it for about fifty.

But what shall we name it? (1)

Traal (147061) | more than 12 years ago | (#3116613)


Troll nostalgia (0, Offtopic)

castlan (255560) | more than 12 years ago | (#3117314)

This is completely Off topic, but for some reason, this article is really calling out for the Penis Bird Troll.

Where are you when we need you? Really, I almost felt the need to crack some lame wood-pecker joke. That wouldn't have happened if you weren't sleeping on the job. Get to it!

Be your own Bird Troll (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3124489)

<O You don't need a special troll to post a cute little picture
( \ of a bird. You can post it yourself! Ever thought of that?
X It's not like Penis Bird Guy is going to come out of the
8===D "wood"work and slapp you with a copyright lawsuit or anything.

Re:Be your own Bird Troll (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3124637)

Well, while I am familiar with the DIY aspect of my bird, sometimes I appreciate a professional touch. And I do know at least one lawyer who I definitely wouldn't mind being slapped around by... she knows how to make my woodwork. Nostalgia, memories, sometimes it's nice to reminice about earlier times. Happy birthday, 03-12-80. I miss you.

Oh, BTW, thanks for that cute little bird.

They can help you. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3117514)

According to Europe, you should get the Echelon's guys help.

hmmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3118903)

Ho hum. Another thinly veiled military surveillance research project. "We're doing it to identify bird calls, honest!"

These are great projects (2)

bstrahm (241685) | more than 12 years ago | (#3119065)

Having worked to identify the spread of Oak Wilt using digital imaging in the mid 80's, I love these biology projects. These problems aren't as easy as you think, given that you don't REALLY know what the bird sounds like (a 50 year old recording maybe ???) you don't know what else is happening in the area (did that jet just fly over ???) how the mic is tuned, etc. etc. etc.

I would love to sit in on this project and try to figure out what the various sounds are...

Ivory billed.......ught oh...... (2)

CDWert (450988) | more than 12 years ago | (#3119100)

These things have an ivory colored bill....and make a wierd sound ?


I think I hit one last year, thought it was just a mutant, seriously. Ive seen woodpeckers around the house in droves since I was a kid, there a lot of older poles riddled with bugs they like to chomp, It can get at times annoying, no worse than catching a humminbird in the eye, had that happen too.

But whizzing down my moms road last year, smack right in the windshield, I pulled in my moms and walked back, it was dead and I wanted to make sure it wasnt suffering. My uncle, next door commented it was indeed different than we had ever seen, the usuall red and grey jobbers.

Chock one more extinct speices up to GM.....

Could the human parallel process the audio? (1)

esnible (36716) | more than 12 years ago | (#3133289)

If the human listened to, say, 10 audio streams at once, wouldn't he or she still be able to hear the distinctive cry of the woodpecker?
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