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Artificial intelligence

An AI learns to spot tree species, with help from a drone

A consumer-grade drone can take photos of trees from above that are good enough to train a deep-learning algorithm to tell different species apart.

Details: The team behind the project flew drone over a forest in Kyoto, Japan, to take photos and then divided some of them into seven categories: six types of trees and one called “others,” for images that captured bare land or buildings.

Results: After some fiddling, the algorithm (which was on an earth-bound computer) achieved 89 percent accuracy overall.

Why it matters: Forest surveys typically use expensive systems outfitted with lidar or specialized cameras. This commercially available setup could be a cheap way to automate tree surveys, and the algorithm could be retrained to aid in disaster response, check pipelines for leaks, or help with other monitoring efforts that need to quickly cover a large area.

Deep Dive

Artificial intelligence

A Roomba recorded a woman on the toilet. How did screenshots end up on Facebook?

Robot vacuum companies say your images are safe, but a sprawling global supply chain for data from our devices creates risk.

The viral AI avatar app Lensa undressed me—without my consent

My avatars were cartoonishly pornified, while my male colleagues got to be astronauts, explorers, and inventors.

Roomba testers feel misled after intimate images ended up on Facebook

An MIT Technology Review investigation recently revealed how images of a minor and a tester on the toilet ended up on social media. iRobot said it had consent to collect this kind of data from inside homes—but participants say otherwise.

How to spot AI-generated text

The internet is increasingly awash with text written by AI software. We need new tools to detect it.

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Illustration by Rose Wong

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