Google Aims to Use AI to Track Critically Endangered Killer Whales
Sun, April 11, 2021

Google Aims to Use AI to Track Critically Endangered Killer Whales

Google collaborated with Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) to monitor the condition of the orcas / Credits: Willyam Bradberry via Shutterstock

 

Killer whales, also known as orcas, are among the most endangered species in the animal kingdom. Some of them were served as a meal for people and some were forced to live in artificial social groupings while being held captive. As of 2019, there are 60 orcas held in captivity, 33 were born in captivity, and 29 were captured in the wild. Keeping orcas in aquariums deprives them of crucial aspects of their lives, and in some cases, it can even prove dangerous to humans.

To address this problem, Google collaborated with Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) to monitor the condition of the orcas and alert experts in the event of sickness or accidents across 12 locations. This project is nothing new to the tech giant since it partnered with the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration two years ago to track humpback whales by using artificial intelligence. This aimed to recognize the sound of whales in audio captured by underwater microphones.

Google’s team trained its AI model using 1,800 hours of underwater audio and 68,000 labels that identified the origin of the sound. According to Tech Xplore, an online site that covers the latest engineering, electronics, and technology advances, they will track critically endangered killer whales in the Salish Sea. At the same time, they will be using a new feature to transcribe what is being said by the orcas in real-time and provide the results in text. 

"We trained a deep neural network that automatically and immediately detects orcas and sends alerts to Canadian harbor managers. With this, your Android mobile phone will effectively turn into an almost real-time translator device for long-form speech," Google said.

Additionally, the new AI system allows marine mammal managers to monitor and treat injured whales or track their location in the event of an oil spill. The team is also planning to develop a system to distinguish between different subspecies of killer whales.