Central Coast researchers use artificial intelligence for ocean exploration

The sheer amount of underwater data now available from autonomous vehicles and ocean sensors is overwhelming for scientists sorting through it, so a team from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) is using artificial intelligence (AI) to develop algorithms that will make the process easier. . Algorithms are the guidelines used to program computers and make them intelligent.

“I want intelligent vehicles to go out into the ocean to scan and look for new life,” said MBARI engineer Kakani Katija.

Katija and her team received a grant from the National Science Foundation to develop a new database called FathomNet for collecting and tagging underwater images.

She said we don’t know much about the ocean and its inhabitants, and AI is a powerful tool for underwater research.

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“Scientists estimate that anywhere from 30 to 60% of life in the ocean has yet to be discovered,” Katija said.

She uses existing images to build algorithms for the ocean robots. She said the more images she collects, the better the algorithms are.

“I throw [in] many different images of a jellyfish or many different images and views of a shark, and together the algorithm can pick up properties that differentiate those animals – it can say, with some relative certainty, that it’s a jellyfish, or it’s a shark,” she said.

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Katija said the technology also allows scientists to monitor the effects of climate change or other threats to the ocean.

MBA

Joost Daniels © 2019 MBARI

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MBARI Chief Engineer Kakani Katija inspects the Mesobot, a new generation of underwater robot, during first field trips aboard MBARI’s research vessel Rachel Carson in Monterey Bay. Mesobot is being developed by engineers at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and MBARI.

“Robotic vehicles can monitor a place for a long time. We can have a constant observational presence at a place to let us know when something is different or has changed,” Katija explained.

The FathomNet database is open to scientists, ocean industries and the general public. The project team is also developing a video game.

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“Through gaming, we can invite people to participate in this exploration of the ocean. You could be the first person to watch this footage of an animal that was completely unknown to science,” she said.

Pokémon Go is an example of the kind of interactive game that Katija said she wants to create for ocean exploration.

“A game like Pokémon Go completely changed people’s behaviors because they were looking for fake animals, and how we can change behavior through games or playing around animals that live here on our planet that we don’t know very much about,” she said. .

The video game is scheduled for release next year. She said the goal for players is to add to the knowledge bank while also becoming good stewards of the ocean.

You can find out more about FathomNet at nature.com.



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