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科学美国人60秒:人工智能人脸识别如何帮助保护美洲狮

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INTRO: This is Scientific American’s 60-Second Science. I'm Ashleigh Papp.

这里是《科学美国人》的 60 秒科学,我是阿什莉·帕普。

Papp: Mountain lions are now posing for their close ups. Researchers based in the greater Yellowstone National Park area have figured out a new way to identify these cats by using facial recognition. And this method is proving to be a better way to monitor these highly elusive creatures.

在特写镜头中,山狮正在摆姿势。位于大黄石国家公园地区的研究人员发现了一种新发法,通过面部识别来识别这些猫科动物。事实证明,对于监视这些高度难以捉摸的生物,这的确是更好的选择。

Alexander: Mountain lions are just really, really hard to directly observe. They're just so cryptic and secretive. And so we've had to find these non-invasive methods, they're often called to, to get information about a mountain lion population.

山狮真的很难直接观察。它们既神秘又隐秘。所以我们不得不经常使用这种非侵入性的方法,来获取关于山狮种群的信息。

Papp: That’s Peter Alexander, a research biologist based in Kelly, Wyoming, who led the research project.

彼得·亚历山大,是怀俄明州凯利市的研究生物学家,他领导了这项研究项目。

One tool that researchers like Alexander are using is a camera trap. The traps, which are about the size of a shoe box or even a coffee cup, are attached to something that's along the animal's regular path, like a tree that the puma has territorially scraped.

像亚历山大这样的研究人员正在使用的一种工具是隐藏的相机探头。这些隐藏的相机大约只有鞋盒甚至咖啡杯那么大,固定在动物经常经过的地方,比如山狮在领土内路过的一棵树。

When motion is detected, the trap gets triggered, resulting in a snapshot of the mountain lion as it strolls by. The cameras even have an infrared flash so that nighttime photos are captured without disturbing the animal.

当检测到物体移动时,隐藏相机就会被触发,从而在山狮漫步时拍下它的快照。这些相机甚至还配备了红外线闪光灯,因此可以在不打扰动物的情况下拍摄夜间照片。

Researchers around the world use this type of tool to estimate population numbers and overall abundance of species. They comb through the images, sometimes using machine learning algorithms, and analyze them to identify individuals. But according to Alexander, there's a problem with this method when it comes to ID'ing mountain lions:

世界各地的研究人员使用这种类型的工具来估计种群数量和丰富度。他们对图像进行梳理,有时使用机器学习算法,并分析算法来识别个体。但根据亚历山大的说法,这种方法在识别山狮时存在问题:

Alexander: Tigers that's kind of the classic example of using cameras for individual identity. Because those stripes, they're like a fingerprint. (10:17) And so a cougar, they do not have any of those really conspicuous stripes on their sides. And so yeah, just your typical flank view shot can be pretty nondescript.

老虎是使用相机识别个人身份的典型例子。因为那些条纹,就像指纹一样。作为山狮,它们的身体两侧没有任何明显的条纹。所以,是的,结果就是典型的侧视图镜头可能无法识别。

Papp: That’s because nearly all pumas around the world, with exceptions of distinguishing things like scars, have light, sandy colored fur down their sides. The scientific name for a mountain lion, Puma concolor, literally translates to "one color". This lack of unique coloration on the sides of their bodies means that researchers like Alexander can't usually tell if one puma crosses a camera trap five times, or if five individual animals pass by.

因为世界上几乎所有的山狮,除了可以区分的伤疤之类的东西,它们的身体两侧只有浅黄色的皮毛。山狮的学名是Puma concolor,直译为“一种颜色”。身体两侧缺乏独特的颜色,意味着像亚历山大这样的研究人员通常无法判断是一只山狮五次路过相机,还是有五只不同的山狮经过。

However, it’s a different story when it comes to their facial markings — they're kind of a show stopper.

然而,当涉及到他们的面部标记时,情况就不同了——它们让人印象深刻。

Alexander: You get a close up image of a face, they're stunning. Just those huge eyes, and there's a lot of detail in whisker patterns and all sorts of stuff. They really are beautiful.

如果得到一张脸的特写,那真是太棒了。那双大眼睛,胡须图案和各种东西都有很多细节。他们真的很漂亮。

Papp: So, Alexander and his team decided to capitalize on the dramatic facial features of mountain lions. They added a few gadgets to their camera traps so that when motion was detected, a cougar kitten call was played. This noise reliably peaked the interest of passerby pumas so that they looked up long enough for the camera trap to grab a face shot.

所以,亚历山大和他的团队决定利用山狮引人注目的面部特征。他们在隐藏的相机探头中添加了一些小工具,这样当检测到物体移动时,相机就会播放小山狮的叫声。这种声音确实使路过的山狮的兴趣达到了顶峰,这样它们抬起头的时间就足够长,隐藏相机就可以捕捉到面部照片。

Five independent investigators reviewed the puma headshots and attempted to ID the individual animals. Compared to the traditional side angle camera trap, the new attention-getting device was about 92% more accurate. This work was recently published in the journal Ecology and Evolution.

五名独立调查人员审查了这些山狮的头像,并试着进行个体识别。与传统的侧面照相比,新的注意力获取装置的准确率提高了约 92%。这项工作最近发表在《生态与进化》杂志上。

This study is an important step on the path to being able to more confidently identify and track animals, in a really scalable way. Snapping headshots of mountain lions also opens up new opportunities to involve AI techniques. Like, the facial recognition technology used by airport security — this could really expedite the image analyzation process for researchers.

这项研究是朝着能够以一种真正可扩展的方式、更自信地识别和跟踪动物的道路上迈出的重要一步。拍摄山狮的头像也为人工智能技术提供了新的机会。就像机场安检使用的面部识别技术——确实可以加快研究人员的图像分析过程。

Alexander: I think that's very possible. That could be a really useful technique in the future. There have been a lot of other facial recognition studies done on animals, but it's never been with a camera trap. So that was kind of the unique thing about this study was merging these two ideas.

我认为这很有可能。这在未来可能是一种非常有用的技术。已经对动物进行了许多其他面部识别研究,但从来没有使用隐藏相机。因此,这项研究的独特之处在于融合了这两种想法。

Papp: And beyond being able to more precisely understand how many mountain lions are in an area, Alexander says that this new camera trap method could be used for tracking other critters that lack distinguishing side colors but have unique features elsewhere. This includes vulnerable species like wolverines, pine martens, and even grizzly bears. That’s worth saying "cheese" for the camera, don't you think?

除了能够更准确地了解一个地区有多少山狮之外,亚历山大说,这种新的隐藏相同样适用于追踪其他缺乏可区分侧面颜色、但在其他地方具有独特特征的小动物。包括易受伤害的物种,如狼獾、松貂,甚至灰熊。对着相机比个“耶”是值得的,不是吗?

OUTRO: Thanks for listening! For Scientific American's 60-Second Science, I’m Ashleigh Papp.

感谢收听!以上是《科学美国人》的 60 秒科学,阿什莉·帕普报道。

INTRO: This is Scientific American’s 60-Second Science. I'm Ashleigh Papp.

Papp: Mountain lions are now posing for their close ups. Researchers based in the greater Yellowstone National Park area have figured out a new way to identify these cats by using facial recognition. And this method is proving to be a better way to monitor these highly elusive creatures.

Alexander: Mountain lions are just really, really hard to directly observe. They're just so cryptic and secretive. And so we've had to find these non-invasive methods, they're often called to, to get information about a mountain lion population.

Papp: That’s Peter Alexander, a research biologist based in Kelly, Wyoming, who led the research project.

One tool that researchers like Alexander are using is a camera trap. The traps, which are about the size of a shoe box or even a coffee cup, are attached to something that's along the animal's regular path, like a tree that the puma has territorially scraped.

When motion is detected, the trap gets triggered, resulting in a snapshot of the mountain lion as it strolls by. The cameras even have an infrared flash so that nighttime photos are captured without disturbing the animal.

Researchers around the world use this type of tool to estimate population numbers and overall abundance of species. They comb through the images, sometimes using machine learning algorithms, and analyze them to identify individuals. But according to Alexander, there's a problem with this method when it comes to ID'ing mountain lions:

Alexander: Tigers that's kind of the classic example of using cameras for individual identity. Because those stripes, they're like a fingerprint. (10:17) And so a cougar, they do not have any of those really conspicuous stripes on their sides. And so yeah, just your typical flank view shot can be pretty nondescript.

Papp: That’s because nearly all pumas around the world, with exceptions of distinguishing things like scars, have light, sandy colored fur down their sides. The scientific name for a mountain lion, Puma concolor, literally translates to "one color". This lack of unique coloration on the sides of their bodies means that researchers like Alexander can't usually tell if one puma crosses a camera trap five times, or if five individual animals pass by.

However, it’s a different story when it comes to their facial markings — they're kind of a show stopper.

Alexander: You get a close up image of a face, they're stunning. Just those huge eyes, and there's a lot of detail in whisker patterns and all sorts of stuff. They really are beautiful.

Papp: So, Alexander and his team decided to capitalize on the dramatic facial features of mountain lions. They added a few gadgets to their camera traps so that when motion was detected, a cougar kitten call was played. This noise reliably peaked the interest of passerby pumas so that they looked up long enough for the camera trap to grab a face shot.

Five independent investigators reviewed the puma headshots and attempted to ID the individual animals. Compared to the traditional side angle camera trap, the new attention-getting device was about 92% more accurate. This work was recently published in the journal Ecology and Evolution.

This study is an important step on the path to being able to more confidently identify and track animals, in a really scalable way. Snapping headshots of mountain lions also opens up new opportunities to involve AI techniques. Like, the facial recognition technology used by airport security — this could really expedite the image analyzation process for researchers.

Alexander: I think that's very possible. That could be a really useful technique in the future. There have been a lot of other facial recognition studies done on animals, but it's never been with a camera trap. So that was kind of the unique thing about this study was merging these two ideas.

Papp: And beyond being able to more precisely understand how many mountain lions are in an area, Alexander says that this new camera trap method could be used for tracking other critters that lack distinguishing side colors but have unique features elsewhere. This includes vulnerable species like wolverines, pine martens, and even grizzly bears. That’s worth saying "cheese" for the camera, don't you think?

OUTRO: Thanks for listening! For Scientific American's 60-Second Science, I’m Ashleigh Papp.
 


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