How AI, Drones, U-Cal and Salesforce Watch Out for Sharks

October 9, 2019 | Artificial Intelligence, News
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Drones and artificial intelligence are helping keep our beaches safe from great white sharks.

Great whites are rising in number. So are their encounters with humans. It’s, therefore, a challenge to devise early warning systems for our beaches. But a solution for spotting sharks with AI (artificial intelligence) is now possible thanks to Salesforce and the University of California.

The project had its genesis in the uptick in shark sightings along the Santa Barbara shoreline. Perhaps, this phenomenon was due to climate change and legislation that bars overfishing.

Spotting sharks with AI: UCSB and Salesforce team up

Members of Salesforce’s Einstein AI team and oceanographers at the University of California’s nonprofit Benioff Ocean Initiative collaborated on the project. They called it Project SharkEye.

They decided to use drones and AI to spot sharks in proximity to beaches. Further, they repurposed “Einstein Vision,” Salesforce’s visual search and product identification service, to process drone video footage and identify sharks.

Students from the University of California Santa Barbara filmed a 10-mile stretch of the coastline with a fleet of drones. This footage was thereafter used to “train” SharkEye’s AI algorithms so that they could differentiate between sharks and other objects.

Life-saving tools for beaches

Benioff Ocean Initiative Director and UCSB professor Douglas McCauley foresees the use of AI-powered drones stationed at lifeguard towers in Santa Barbara for spotting sharks. These drones would fly out and relay back data on sharks and other hazards.

“Lifeguards do a superb job of protecting all of us when we head to the beach,” says McCauley. “But they are constantly on the lookout for next-gen tools and technologies to help them better assess the situation at their beaches. AI could very well be one of those new tools.”

[Related story: Artificial Intelligence May Provide Advance Warning of a Heart Attack]

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