Saturday, May 9, 2009

Electronic Field Guides

The other night, I noticed that Apple found a way to tap into a market of, well, folks who I would consider to be less interested in technology and consumption: nature lovers and hikers. Here's the commercial showing the latest and greatest iPhone app:

Pretty cool, huh? You know what is even cooler? The hand-held electronic field guide that identifies tree species based on the shape of their leaves that a team of researchers financed by the National Science Foundation have been working on. The NY Times reports:

...The tree guide, and other electronic guides to nature being developed, may be used one day not only by backyard botanists, hikers and children on field trips, but also by scientists and volunteers to compile data for environmental inventories, or as part of species discovery... Computer applications that automatically identify, for example, a particular bird call or tree species or even an individual dolphin may prove popular with the public, said P. Bryan Heidorn, a program manager at the National Science Foundation who tried a prototype of the tree program at the Smithsonian... The computer tree guide is good at narrowing down and finding the right species near the top of the list of possibilities, he said. “Instead of flipping through a field guide with 1,000 images, you are given 5 or 10 choices,” he said. The right choice may be second instead of first sometimes, “but that doesn’t really matter,” he said. “You can always use the English language — a description of the bark, for instance — to do the final identification.”


Niko said...

Wow, that is truly awesome and so much easier...The days of picking up a survival guide to figure out what plants are edible,what trees to burn while preparing food, and of course identifying posionous plants to watch out for, looks to become less of a skill, but common knowledge now...however until this becomes idiot proof i recommend grabbing a survival

Deborah said...

Isn't there some procedure or steps to determine whether or not something will poison you? Like you first rub it on your arm, wait and hour, then eat a bit, wait 24 hours... and monitor your reactions or lack thereof?