Elephants are proverbially hard to miss, but even these huge beasts can be swallowed up in the vast plains of Africa. This is a big problem for park rangers whose job is to protect the animals from poachers. In Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, for example, there are just 150 rangers responsible for safeguarding an area of land roughly the size of Belgium.
A new solution to this proposed by conservation nonprofit Resolve is to use AI-equipped cameras to act as remote lookouts. Today, Resolve announced a new custom-made device called TrailGuard AI, which uses Intel-made vision chips to identify animals and humans that wander into view. The cameras will be placed on access trails used by poachers, automatically alerting park rangers who can check up on any suspicious activity.
TrailGuard AI builds on past work by Resolve to create remote cameras to aid conservation. However, early devices were bulky, had limited battery life, and were unsophisticated, sending images to rangers every time their motion sensors were tripped. This resulted in lots of false positives, as the cameras would be triggered by non-events, such as the wind shaking tree branches.
The new device, by comparison, is no thicker than a human index finger, has a battery life of a year and a half, and can reliably identify humans, animals, and vehicles. The chip used by Resolve is Intel’s Movidius Myriad 2 VPU (or vision processing unit), which is the same technology that powered Google’s automatic Clips camera.