Indian-American teenager invents software to spot elephant poachers — The Indian Panorama

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Anika Puri, the 17-year-old wildlife lover from Chappaqua, New York, invented an inexpensive tool to spot elephant poachers with machine learning-based software.

NEW YORK (TIP): An Indian-American teenager has invented an inexpensive tool to spot elephant poachers with machine learning-based software that analyzes movement patterns in thermal infrared videos of humans and elephants. Anika Puri, the 17-year-old wildlife lover from Chappaqua, New York, thought of doing something when on a visit to India with her family four years ago, she came across a market in Mumbai filled with rows of jewels and ivory statues. Globally, the ivory trade has been illegal for more than 30 years and elephant hunting has been banned in India since the 1970s. “I was quite surprised,” Puri told the media. “Because I always thought, ‘well, poaching is illegal, how come it’s still such a big problem?'”

Curious, Puri did some research and found a shocking statistic: Africa’s forest elephant population had declined by around 62% between 2002 and 2011. Years later, the numbers continue to drop.

Drones are currently used to detect and capture images of poachers, and they aren’t as accurate, Puri says.

But after watching videos of elephants and humans, she saw how vastly the two differed in the way they moved – their speed, turn patterns and other movements, the report wrote.

“I realized that we could use this disparity between these two movement patterns to really increase the accuracy of detecting potential poachers,” she said.

Within two years, Puri created ElSa (short for Elephant Savior), a low-cost prototype of machine learning-based software that analyzes movement patterns in thermal infrared videos of humans and elephants.

Puri told the Smithsonian that the software is four times more accurate than existing state-of-the-art detection methods. It also eliminates the need for expensive high-resolution thermal cameras, which can cost thousands of dollars, she says.

ElSa uses a $250 FLIR ONE Pro thermal camera with a resolution of 206×156 pixels that plugs into a standard iPhone 6. The camera and iPhone are then hooked up to a drone, and the system makes real-time inferences as it flies over parks as to whether the objects below are humans or elephants. Puri submitted her project to this year’s Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair, the largest international pre-college STEM competition in the world. Her eloquence in describing her research and its potential impact on society won her the $10,000 Peggy Scripps Prize for Science Communication. She also won a prestigious award in the earth and environmental science category of the competition. Puri first discovered the capabilities of artificial intelligence just after ninth grade, when she was selected to attend the Stanford AI Lab summer program. “Initially, my enthusiasm for artificial intelligence was based on this unlimited possibility for social good,” she told the Smithsonian. But she soon discovered that because the data is collected and analyzed by humans, it contains human biases, and so does AI.

“He really has the ability to strengthen some of the worst aspects of our society,” she says. “What I really understood was how important it is for women, people of color, all kinds of minorities in tech to be at the forefront of this kind of game-changing technology. .”

About a year later, Puri founded a non-profit organization called mozAIrt, which inspires girls and other underrepresented groups to get involved in IT using a combination of music, art and entertainment. ‘IA. To create his model, Puri first found the movement patterns of humans and elephants in several protected areas in Africa. Sifting through the data, Puri identified 516 time series taken from videos that captured moving humans or elephants.

Puri used a machine learning algorithm to train a model to classify a figure as an elephant or a human based on its speed, group size, turning radius, number of turns and other patterns. . In the fall, Puri will attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she wants to study electrical engineering and computer science.

She plans to extend her research into movement patterns to other endangered animals. Next are the rhinos, she said. And it wants to start implementing its software in national parks across Africa, including Kruger National Park in South Africa. Covid-19 restrictions have delayed some of her plans to travel to these parks to get her project off the ground, but she hopes to explore her options after starting college. Because drones only have a range of a few hours, she is currently creating a path planning algorithm to ensure maximum efficiency in the drone’s flight path, Puri said.

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