Leaf snap: Facial recognition software for trees

No idea what types of trees are in your own backyard? Can't tell a birch from a poplar? Leafsnap to the rescue! A collaboration between Columbia University, the University of Maryland, the Smithsonian Institution, and FindingSpecies.org, this iPhone/iPad app takes facial recognition software and applies it to leaves. Snap a photo of a leaf and Leafsnap will identify the tree based on its outline.

The way it works is actually pretty simple. Leafsnap identifies tree species by the shapes of their leaves, so the app's algorithms extract the edge contours of the leaf in question (that's why the app asks you to snap your pics on a solid background) and match it against an online database assembled by the Smithsonian Institution. "We use a different palette of visual characteristics for plant species identification than we do for face recognition, but the later stage machine learning methods are much the same," Belhumeur tells Co.Design.

It's kind of like Shazam meets Project Noah.

For more on Leafsnap, download the app or read the full Fast Co.Design article.

via Fast Co.Design

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