Warblr: an app that recognises birds from their song
Warblr: an app that recognises birds from their song
Warblr is an audio recognition app for birdsong. We're using tech to connect people with nature and gather data to aid conservation.
Warblr is an audio recognition app for birdsong. We're using tech to connect people with nature and gather data to aid conservation. Read more
About this project
*THANK YOU SO MUCH TO EVERYONE FOR YOUR SUPPORT SO FAR*
Message to our friends in North America & around the world
We are planning to create a North American version of Warblr too, and following that additional versions of the app for different regions around the world. Technology wise it's very feasible – we just need to retrain the technology to recognise each region's bird sounds.
We've already tested our technology with Brazilian birds, for example, and it performed very well. Of course it all depends on how we get on and if we hit our funding target, but we hope to cater for North American, for example, by the end of 2015/early 2016.
Note on our rewards
We're really sorry, but it has been brought to our attention that the date on some of our rewards is 2016. We'd never keep you hanging on that long! Please note that all rewards will be delivered towards the end of 2014 or in spring 2015.
Notice to Android users
When we launch in the spring of 2015 it will be for both iPhone and Android – we'd never miss you guys out – we want Warblr to be available to all! We just built the prototype for iPhone for demo-ing purposes.
As seen on:
"Birds are indicators of the environment. If they are in trouble, we know we'll soon be in trouble”, Roger Tory Peterson.
With an ever-growing urban population, the gap between people’s day-to-day lives and our natural world is widening. We live in a society full of distractions, and nature is becoming further removed from many people’s frame of reference.
Yet this is at a time when our flora and fauna is in the greatest need of protection. We are losing our biodiversity at a terrifying rate: between 1000 and 10,000 times the natural extinction rate, according to experts. This includes hundreds of species of bird, including the now-extinct passenger pigeon, which was once the most numerous bird on the planet.
What is Warblr?
The UK alone has between 400 and 500 different species of bird. Telling them apart can be a tricky business, even for the experts.
Warblr is an audio recognition mobile app that identifies bird songs and calls. The way in which it works is simple:
Step 1: Users make a recording with their mobile device.
Step 2: Warblr identifies the species of bird that can be found in that recording, and provides information about that species.
Why are we doing it?
Our goal is to bring people closer to the natural world through technology. We want to get people outdoors, appreciating the wildlife on their doorstep, because we believe that this will make them want to protect it for generations to come.
And through using Warblr, we hope to empower people to do just that; each time the app is used to identify a bird, in-the-app geo-tracking will allow us to map which species are being spotted when and where. These data will be made publicly available, allowing zoologists and ecologists to monitor species growth and decline, patterns of migration, and ultimately to aid conservation.
Can we do it?
In a word, yes! Warblr has been founded by two people; Florence, who looks after the marketing, communications and the business side of things, and Dan, who is a scientist at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL). Dan has been awarded a five-year fellowship to work on the audio recognition of birdsong, and has already developed the bespoke machine learning technology that sits behind the app. You can read more about this by clicking here.
Currently trained on existing data derived from recordings of over 80 British bird species, Dan’s technology is achieving scores of up to 95% in optimum conditions. This has been externally validated through the big Brazil bird classification challenge, where Dan’s method was the clear winner among the audio-only methods, as judged against teams from all around the world.
If you're technically inclined and would like to read more about our technology, you can check out Dan's latest research paper here.
Where are we now?
We were lucky enough to receive a small grant from the QMUL's Innovation Fund, which has allowed us to build a prototype/proof of concept – view our video to see our prototype in action. We now need your support to allow us to build the app in full, and to launch in the spring (because spring is when birds sing the most – naturally).
Why do we need your support?
As you'll see, we have a very simple prototype that – we hope – proves our concept, but we need to make it a whole lot better. We want the finished app to be absolutely beautiful – filled with images of birds and relevant information. We want to fix all the bugs and make sure that our technology is functioning as well as it possibly can. We want to put the time and resource into letting the world know about Warblr, because the more users we get on board, the more data we can collect, and the more useful our efforts to aid conservationists will be.
To do all of this, we need to work with designers and developers, with conservationists and scientists, and to scale up our small team of passionate nature-lovers.
If we reach our target, this will allow us to launch in the Android and Apple app stores in the spring with an app that works across the UK.
If we significantly exceed our target, this will allow us to train our technology with North American birdsong, and to create a full North American version of the app.
What happens after launch?
Launching Warblr in the app stores in the spring won’t be the end of our journey – it will be the beginning.
We want Warblr to be a sustainable project, so we will be charging a small amount to download the app – around £1.99 – which will allow us to keep on working to improve the app and to launch in new territories. We're keen to use Warblr to engage people all around the world with their local birdlife.
We want to build relationships with major wildlife organisations in the UK and eventually worldwide to help us achieve this reach, leading to a user base that numbers not just in the hundreds or thousands, but in the hundreds of thousands!
We will work with our developers to make of the collected data available under an open licence for conservation and research, while taking steps to ensure privacy for the users who contribute.
Warblr is proud to be featured on the RSA curated area on Kickstarter, which selects the best new ideas to help tackle social problems that its 27,000 Fellows are looking to deliver. I’m an RSA Fellow and have been selected to be a part of this. Click here to see more RSA-backed projects and find out more about the RSA.
Risks and challenges
We're not going to lie; what we're trying to do isn't easy, and there are plenty of other people who have tried and haven't succeeded. When it comes to building even simple apps, you're always going to come up against hurdles such as bugs and inconsistencies, and whilst our idea is simple, our technology is far from it. What we’re doing is truly cutting edge, and this means that few precedents have been set in this area.
But we believe that we have the right expertise to make a success of Warblr. Florence has managed the build of various apps and digital products in the past, and has a strong background in marketing, communications and business; particularly within the field of start-ups and social enterprises. And Dan is an expert when it comes to machine learning, with proven results.
Any project that entails extensive research and development will need a lot of fine-tuning. We’ll also need patience and understanding from our testers and early adopters, because we won't be able to get it right every single time.
We hope, however, to get it right at least most of the time, and the beauty of machine learning is that we should get better and better. The more people use the app, and the more recordings/data we gather, the more accurate we'll become as our technology "learns".
We know that this next stage in our journey comes with a lot of challenges. But they are challenges that we are expecting and are ready to tackle. We believe that Warblr will be worth the hard work. We hope you will too!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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