BEACON TRANSCRIPT – A collaboration between computer scientists and biologists is meant to bring facial recognition tools to a whole new level. They created a tool that field researchers can use to identify individual lemurs. The tool might work for other species as well.
It is a common human thing for us to be able to tell members of our species apart. Also, we have become pretty good in differentiating between cats and dogs. However, when other animals are involved, it gets a little harder.
Jane Goodall performed several studies on chimpanzees and she faced resistance from other scientists when she claimed she could differentiate each individual chimp and call them by names. Now, this is mandatory in animal behavioral research and all who work in the field should tell each individual animal from each other.
Some researchers might be good at telling one animal from another, but other still found this challenging. Vanessa Woods was performing a study on capuchin monkeys and she recalled how hard it was for her to tell which monkey is which. For the results to be conclusive, she needed data collected from specific individuals.
Dr. Rachel Jacobs of George Washington University knows of these struggles and thought that technology might be of help in such situations. She and her team took 462 photos of 80 red-bellied lemurs (Eulemur rubriventer) that live in Ranomafana National Park in Madagascar.
Then, they adapted a facial recognition tool that works for human faces to work for lemurs as well and recognizes them based on their facial characteristics. The program showed 98.7 percent accuracy, which suggested that it could be used successfully for lemur identification.
The program, called LemurFaceID, worked almost flawlessly due to the fact that the researchers provided images of all lemurs in the area. Identifying an unknown lemur might be a bit more challenging. Red-bellied lemurs have white fur patches under their eyes that are easy to use in identification, while other lemur species do not have distinctive signs on their faces and might be more difficult to recognize.
Nevertheless, the researchers hope that the program could be used in the identification of any mammals that have distinctive facial hair, such as raccoons, sloths, or even bears.
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