Mitch Waite, creator of iBird PRO, hopes birders will augment their field glasses with his new Glass Birds — a Google Glass app with its sights set on a mid-2014 release ($30 for iPhone; $10 for Android). Imagine: You see a bird perching in a tree. You tell Glass, “Identify bird.” The app knows your location and eliminates possibilities based on range and habitat, then narrows attributes by shape, size, color, markings — all instantaneously, via voice commands. The interface projects images onto Glass’ prism optics, making the screen appear 25 feet away, so it’s not so in-your-face as you navigate through the puzzle.
It’s not exactly The Terminator, Waite says. “Today’s technology isn’t sophisticated enough to scan something 50 feet away and come up with an ID on its own.” Nor can any software nail a bird by song alone. “The reason programs like Shazam work is an imprint coded into digital songs. All you need is a couple of seconds of 1’s and 0’s to get a match. But birds have two sets of vocal tracks, and they play the most complex frequencies.”
So the good news: Birders are not in danger of being replaced by cyborgs anytime soon.
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