University of Southampton researchers have developed Cicada Hunt, a smartphone app that is designed to listen for the call of the endangered New Forest cicada. The app also can be trained to detect other animals, including birds, bats, grasshoppers, and crickets.
After the app has recognized the insect's call, it sounds an alert to tell the user to record a brief sound clip that can be emailed to researchers, who then create a heat map of the insect's spread.
"It has to easily differentiate between the cicada, which has a constant song, and other common insects, particularly the dark bush cricket, which chirps," notes Southampton researcher Alex Rogers. In tests on a known population in Slovenia, the app successfully identified the cicada, Rogers adds.
The researchers are now updating the app to identify 20 grasshopper and cricket species, as well as birdsongs. Scientists say the app could have wide applications. "If their technique can be generalized to identify the sounds of any animal and not just cicadas, then I think the stage is set for some kind of 'animal shazam' service that will tell you what crickets are chirping in your backyard, or what shrieking bird just woke you up at 4 a.m.," says iNaturalist.org biologist Kenichi Ueda.
From New Scientist
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