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Intel And Leo DiCaprio Have Made An AI Camera To Stop Poachers

By Holly Brockwell on at

Intel's new AI anti-poaching camera is a partnership with the National Geographic Society and... Leonardo DiCaprio.

Well, DiCaprio's foundation, anyhow.

The TrailGuard AI camera is about the size of a pencil and has a battery that lasts for a year and a half in the wild. It's based on prototypes funded by the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation and the National Geographic Society, with the aim of detecting poachers and alerting rangers so they can be stopped before they harm any animals.

DiCaprio's foundation is "dedicated to the protection and wellbeing of all Earth's inhabitants," and aims to "support projects around the world that build climate resiliency, protect vulnerable wildlife, and restore balance to threatened ecosystems and communities."

An elephant is killed every 15 minutes by a poacher (jesus CHRIST, humans). The new camera uses Intel's Movidius Vision Processing Units (VPUs) to process what it sees, running deep neural net algorithms to classify and identify objects in the area. It's motion-activated, and if it spots a human, sends emergency alerts to nearby park rangers in almost real-time so they can get to the scene and stop the slaughter.

35,000 elephants are killed every year by poachers, as well as mountains of rhinos, tigers and gorillas. They often also trap antelopes, wildebeest and giraffes in their snares by accident.

Justin Winters, executive director at the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation comments (slightly disappointed it's not Leo himself giving the quote, mind you):

"Reckless human activity is causing species loss and extinction on an unprecedented scale, with recent reports showing that as many as 60% of all wildlife has been wiped out since 1970. If illegal poaching of wildlife continues at the current rate, elephants are just one of the large mammal species that will be completely erased in our lifetime.

A commitment to protecting wildlife has been at the heart of LDF’s work from the beginning and we are excited to collaborate with Intel and RESOLVE on this breakthrough AI technology, which is set to be a game-changer for park rangers in the monitoring and management of endangered species around the world."

Previous systems would take photos whenever there was movement, and rangers would have to sort through them manually to figure out if there was a threat. The AI now takes care of that part, meaning the ranger is only alerted when there's an actual issue. Before, rangers could be alerted by anything from birds and animals to moving clouds (!), so we're guessing they quickly stopped reacting as if it was an emergency, and that could slow down a response when it actually was.

The previous version of TrailGuard also had to be maintained every four to six weeks. The new one will happily sit unattended for a year and a half, which is also better for the animals, because going out to fix the cameras every month would quite likely tip off poachers to where they're hidden.

Eric Dinerstein, director of biodiversity and wildlife at RESOLVE, comments:

"The Intel Movidius VPU allowed us to revolutionise TrailGuard AI by adding artificial intelligence to a proven end-to-end solution to stop illegal poaching around the world.

In addition to providing the AI technology, Intel engineers worked closely with us to build, test and optimise this incredible anti-poaching solution that will make a real difference in saving animals."

The VPU is so small that the whole unit only has to be the size of a pencil, making it really easy to hide. It'll be deployed in 100 African reserves this year, starting with Serengeti and Garamba, then rolling out to Southeast Asia and South America.