As a spider and snake noob, I’ve arrived on a clear conclusion since moving from the UK to Australia in 2005: Spiders terrify me.
Maybe a dozen times since I arrived I’ve uploaded a picture of a gnarly looking spider to the internet, and fearfully asked, “will this thing kill me?”
At one point I asked myself: Why the hell hasn’t someone invented Shazam for spiders.
You know, like a smart phone app that allows me to just take a photo of a spider or a snake — or any animal I’m worried could potentially murder me — and have it identified for me.
Thankfully it now exists: Meet Critterpedia.
Critterpedia is a collaboration between creators Nic and Murray Scare and Australia’s National Science Agency, CSIRO. It’s a machine learning engine designed to automatically identify different species of spiders and snakes. An AI-powered algorithm like Critterpedia requires hundreds of thousands of images to become accurate in its assessments, so CSIRO and Data 61 are hoping to get as many people as possible to download Critterpedia and upload pictures of spiders and snakes they might see in the wild.
Slimy, spindly nightmares hauled from the Australian abyss
“The visual differences between the two species can be quite subtle. We need a great deal of training data to adequately identify critters,” said Matt Adcock, project lead and Data61 researcher .
You can sign up to be a phase 1 tester of a beta version of the app here. CSIRO is hoping this project can help save human lives, and animal lives as well.
“By utilizing disruptive, top-end technology, Critterpedia can guide people to gain a deeper understanding of our misunderstood wildlife by providing the tools and experiences they need for a great education, the key to positive change,” says Nic Scarce, the CEO and co-founder of Critterpedia.
I’m downloading this thing ASAP.