Watching Birds on Webcams... No, Not Like That
No, this isn't porn; it's interactive birdwatching. Webcams set up to watch a given environment are nothing new (I'm a fan of ski-report webcams myself), but this is the first I've heard of that has a crowdsourcing element.
Craig Newmark has set up a webcam on his rear deck to snoop on his neighbors -- and it's open to anyone on the internet.
But fear not; Newmark's no peeping tom. The webcam is a remote-controlled bird-watching cam, and it can be manipulated by thousands of virtual bird watchers simultaneously.
As of Monday, the Cone Sutro Forest cam is the latest of several remote-controlled webcams designed to allow scientists and nature lovers to program their own nature shows over the internet.
"People have put up bird cams to watch hawks nest on skyscrapers -- this is the same thing," said Newmark, father of Craigslist. "People are often fascinated with nature shows. With (Sutro Forest) you get your own nature show."
The researchers at the University of California at Berkeley and Texas A&M who developed the technology hope to attract gamers and nature-enthusiasts in the bird-watching game, which is one in a series of webcam projects planned around the globe.
Players vie for spots on the top watchers' list by photographing and classifying the most birds. They snap stills of avian targets from the video stream, and the shots are dumped into a database for classification.
The camera processes user requests for pans and zooms in real-time. An algorithm calculates the best focal point to satisfy requests from the most users (now capped at 20 due to bandwidth constraints).
If the beta test is successful, similar observatories could be set up in remote locales to survey migration patterns of endangered wildlife.