SCIENCE & TECH: AI-powered bird feeder takes candid pics, identifies our feathered friends as they snack
There’s a new, high-tech way of bird feeding (and watching).
An AI-powered bird feeder called Bird Buddy doesn’t only feed the birds — it takes candid photos and identifies the species of each bird as it lands for a snack.
Bird Buddy CEO Franci Zidar, whose company is based in Kalamazoo, Michigan, told Fox News Digital that the product uses artificial intelligence technology to take clear and “interesting” snapshots of the birds that come to feed.
Bird Buddy’s AI first detects when a bird lands — and captures a clear photo.
The smart bird feeder then detects the type of bird species — and sends a notification with the photo and bird info to its owner’s mobile device.
“For each bird that we identify, we have a custom-built profile that’s a really beautiful mix of fun and educational information,” Zidar said.
“You get to learn about the kind of foods the birds like, and how they sing, so you can recognize them when you’re out and about — and [it is designed to] lower the friction for people to enter this kind of bird-watching world.”
Bird Buddy also runs a live network that displays captured images in an online, real-time feed.
Zidar and his team, including an in-house ornithologist, built the AI model by planting hundreds of global cameras to collect data on various bird species.
Based on that data, the model has since been developed to have a “really high rate of recognition,” he said.
Bird Buddy’s learning model has grown a “huge data set,” as more than a million detections occur around the world each day.
Zidar, who is based in Slovenia, shared that he’s long been creating products that “gamify the outdoors,” including collaborative work with Snapchat.
Now, with Bird Buddy, Zidar said his vision is to reconnect people with nature, given that bird feeding is the second-largest outdoor hobby in the US.
“Roughly 70 million people in the US feed birds around their homes,” he said. “It’s second only to gardening.”
Some other sources indicate that birdwatching is among the top 10 favorite outdoor activities for people in the US.
Zidar broke down the multi-level impact of Bird Buddy, including the use of bird detection data, which can analyze bird migration and other important research that’s crucial to protecting the animal.
The CEO revealed that the future of Bird Buddy’s technology could lead to identifying specific birds that interact with the cameras, allowing watchers and researchers to keep track of individual birds without having to physically tag them.
“It also gives meaning to entering the Bird Buddy network,” he said.
“You’re not just a customer and a user — you’re also contributing to this large data set and the cause behind it.”
And Bird Buddy’s network is about to expand with the launch of its newest initiative, Bird Buddy Explore, which will allow anyone — with or without a smart feeder — to access feeders in 30 remote locations around the world.
These include exotic destinations such as Ghana, Hawaii, Chile and Kenya, where cameras can be accessed through the Bird Buddy app for free.
The 150,000 community feeders will also be able to share content.
“It’s one of those notifications that won’t be stressful, anxiety-inducing or annoying, because it’s going to be a beautiful picture of a bird,” he said.
“Everybody will now be able to connect to this broad network of Bird Buddies from these beautiful places and effectively enjoy content beyond their backyard.”
While Bird Buddy began with a mission of adding birds to a collection, Zidar said it’s blossomed into fostering a connection with nature and promoting mental health.
Research shows that people who are “more connected with nature are usually happier in life,” according to the UK Mental Health Foundation.
“Nature connectedness is also associated with lower levels of poor mental health, particularly lower depression and anxiety,” the foundation wrote on its website.
Feeding birds is a way of contributing to environmental protection, said Zidar.
Bird feeding as an activity is an easy way to “give something back to nature,” he noted.
Bird Buddy recently announced two new accessories for its feeders, including the Bird Buddy Perch Extender and Bird Buddy 3-in-1 Nutrition Set.
The latter includes a water fountain, jelly tray and fruit spike, according to a press release.