The herp-loving A.I. bot ‘Fitch’ needs your help to learn how to identify snakes

There’s a new snake-loving website that wants to crowdsource reptile and amphibian identification, and it hopes your backyard photos can help its AI bot learn how to do it. The Verge has a rundown of What’s the Herp? and its related site HerpMapper, the products of developer Don Becker and a team of IT professionals, biologists, and herpetologists who hope to remove some of the stigma surrounding snakes and their assorted relatives.

“People kill things because they’re afraid of them,” Becker told The Verge. “The more you learn about something, the more you appreciate it.”

The AI bot is named Fitch, whose namesake, the late Henry S. Fitch, is known as the “father of snake biology.” The team is hoping the public will join in to assist Fitch in his endeavors.

You can create an account on the What the Herp site and upload your own photos, or help out by flipping through the photos already on the site and drawing boxes around the critters. Fitch is easily confused by background environments in the photos, and annotating them helps in his training. “It’s not the brightest thing in the world right now,” Becker admitted. “But it’s getting there.”

The ultimate goal is to have a way for people to identify snakes and other creatures in their backyard. “By giving people a way to identify what it is that they’re looking at, that can help dissuade people from killing it,” said Becker. They want to have at least 250 images of each species of reptile and amphibian on file, and there’s also a “Most Wanted List” to help reach that goal.

You can also quiz Fitch by sending a photo to their Twitter account, and he’ll reply with his best guess as to what the creature is.

Their companion site, HerpMapper, is a non-profit designed to collect and share data about amphibians and reptiles from around the world. Members can submit images or audio files, along with the location using GPS data.

Detailed location info is not available to the public, to help conserve sensitive or endangered species. Only partners of the site, such as state biologists, university researchers, or conservation organizations can see specific location data.

Becker admits that it’s no small challenge to try and get people to like snakes. “The biggest issue with conservation of herps is that we work with one of the most detested groups on the planet — you’re up there with spiders,” he said.


FCC to help first responders pinpoint 911 callers in multistory buildings

When someone calls 911 from their cell phone, wireless carriers provide operators with an approximate location. Now the FCC wants the carriers to provide vertical location data to pinpoint 911 callers inside multi-story buildings.

Here's what we know about the Dark Souls developer's next game

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is the latest game from Dark Souls and Bloodborne developer From Software. Here is everything we know about the new game, including its setting and combat changes.

Don't take your provider's word for it. Here's how to test your internet speed

If you're worried that you aren't getting the most from your internet package, speed tests are a great way to find out what your real connection is capable of. Here are the best internet speed tests available today.
Movies & TV

The best movies on Netflix in March, from Buster Scruggs to Roma

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, witty humor, or anything else.
Emerging Tech

Take a dip in the Lagoon Nebula in first image from SPECULOOS instrument

The European Southern Observatory has released the first image collected by their new SPECULOOS instrument, and it's a stunning portrait of the Lagoon Nebula, a swirling cloud of dust and gas where new stars are born.
Emerging Tech

Robot assistants from Toyota and Panasonic gear up for the Tokyo Olympics

Japan plans to use the 2020 Olympics to showcase a range of its advanced technologies. Toyota and Panasonic are already getting in on the act, recently unveiling several robotic designs that they intend to deploy at the event.
Emerging Tech

A.I.-generated text is supercharging fake news. This is how we fight back

A new A.I. tool is reportedly able to spot passages of text written by algorithm. Here's why similar systems might prove essential in a world of fake news created by smart machines.
Emerging Tech

Racing to catch a flight? Robot valet at French airport will park your car

Hate searching for parking at the airport when you need to catch a plane? Startup Stanley Robotics recently unveiled a new outdoor automated robotic valet system. Here's how it works.

Bags with brains: Smart luggage and gadgets are making travel smoother

The bag you use to tote your stuff can affect the experience of any trip. In response, suitcases are wising up, and there are now options for smart luggage with scales, tracking, and more. Here are our favorite pieces.

At $99, Nvidia’s Jetson Nano minicomputer seeks to bring robotics to the masses

Nvidia announced a new A.I. computer, the Jetson Nano. This computer comes with an 128-core GPU that Nvidia claims can handle pretty much any A.I. framework you could imagine. At $99, it's an affordable way for A.I. newbies to get involved.

Nvidia’s A.I. Playground lets you edit photos, experience deep learning research

Nvidia is making it easier to access information on deep learning research. It has launched an online space with three demos for image editing, styling, as well as photorealistic image synthesis. 

British Airways’ new Club Suite for business class comes with a door

British Airways is going after a bigger slice of the business class market with the imminent launch of the Club Suite. The plush seating option offers a more private space as well as an easier route to the bathroom.
Smart Home

Sony’s Aibo robot dog can now patrol your home for persons of interest

Sony released the all-new Aibo in the U.S. around nine months ago, and since then the robot dog has (hopefully) been melting owners' hearts with its cute looks and clever tricks. Now it has a new one up its sleeve.
Emerging Tech

Inflating smart pills could be a painless alternative to injections

Could an inflating pill containing hidden microneedles replace painful injections? The creators of the RaniPill robotic capsule think so — and they have the human trials to prove it.