Swarovski and Cornell Lab Collaborate on a #DigitalGuide that Can ID What You’re Seeing

August 16, 2019
The digital guide is a monocular designed by Swarovski Optik. Photo by Drew Weber.The digital guide is a monocular designed by Swarovski Optik. Photo by Drew Weber.

A collaboration between the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Swarovski Optik has resulted in the unveiling of an exciting new concept product called the “digital guide” at this year’s Birdfair in Rutland, England.

The “digital guide” (or #digitalguide on social media) is a monocular designed by Swarovski Optik. It features an integrated camera that can connect seamlessly with the Cornell Lab’s free Merlin Bird ID app. With the click of a button, the monocular captures an image of the bird you are watching and transfers it to Merlin on the user’s phone. Merlin’s powerful computer vision system then identifies the bird in the image.

This innovative product brings together the optical and engineering expertise of Swarovski Optik with the Lab’s cutting-edge computer vision bird identification tools, eBird sightings, and photos and sounds from the Macaulay Library—all in pursuit of making it possible for anyone to identify birds that are new to them.

Using the digital guide is easy, just find a bird... Photo by Drew Weber.Using the digital guide is easy. Just find a bird...
...and with the click of a button, the monocular captures an image and transfers it to Merlin on the user's phone. Merlin's powerful computer vision system then gives you a list of possible bird IDs. Photo by Drew Weber....and with the click of a button, the monocular captures an image and transfers it to Merlin on the user's phone or tablet, which has a powerful computer vision system that gives you a list of possible bird IDs. Photos by Drew Weber.

This integration with Merlin Bird ID puts the app’s expert-curated photos, sounds, and text in easy reach just when users need them. Through the use of free, downloadable “bird packs,” Merlin offers identification resources for more than 3,700 species in the Americas, Europe, Asia and Australia, with more on the way.

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The Cornell Lab added the first computer vision bird ID tools to Merlin Bird ID in 2017 through a collaboration with Visipedia, a team of computer vision researchers at Caltech and Cornell Tech. Just two years later the next evolution of nature observation is appearing. If you’re not at Birdfair this year (August 2019), be patient. The digital guide will be on exhibit at a variety of upcoming birding festivals; find out where you can try it out.

At present, the digital guide is a product concept and is not yet for sale. Swarovski plans to release more information about it in the first half of 2020. So for now, the best way to try one out is to go to a demo at one of the birding festivals in the link above.

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