The aim of this series of reviews is to provide an overview of the free applications available to birders. There are a number of excellent paid for applications available which we have run a podcast series on previously (https://bit.ly/2ZECfmQ), however we believe that some birders may not have the resources to access these apps. The review process will be conducted as objectively as possible as there is clearly a great divide between paid for and free applications in this genre. The rating system will only be judged on criteria consistent across all apps namely search functionality, text, photographs and ease of use. Additional points will be added to the total score for extras such as location settings, calls, offline access, distribution maps and listing settings. This is the second blog in this review series.
As I am an Android user the applications reviewed will be found on Android and hopefully IOS too.
The South African Bird Identifier app has been published by NatureAi which is a South African development company which not only has applications for birds, but Fish, Mammals, Fruit and Vegetables and European flora and fauna.
Description of the app found on the Google Play Store:
“Identify birds instantly with incredible accuracy. Are you someone who recently started birding or is maybe thinking of taking up the wonderful hobby of birding? Then look no further.
Through our Artificial Intelligence algorithms, we aim to take the frustration and confusion out of trying to identify bird species to ensure that your birding experience as a new birder is nothing but pure joy - as it was meant to be. Bird identification: South African Birds is an electronic interactive bird identifier that uses the latest Artificial Intelligence technology to identify birds for you through the Photo ID feature. Features include: - Photo ID that utilises the latest NatureAi Artificial Intelligence technology and identifies a bird from a photo that you upload. - After successfully identifying your bird the app will confirm the best matches and provide dynamic links to the Wikipedia page of the bird that will open in the app. - The ability to browse birds should it be preferred. Birds are ordered by taxonomic families and searchable. The content for each bird directly links to the Wikipedia page of the bird. It all sounds great, but what does this App actually do?
You’ve seen other Apps that serve similar purposes. What makes ours the best?
The main focus of NatureAi is to create the most accurate Artificial Intelligence algorithms to identify objects in nature. As a result, our app will continuously improve its accuracy. Also, it is free, requires no subscription and this will always be the case.”
How accurate is it? All our apps pass the international benchmarks in human vision accuracy. This simply means if you exposed the average human being to the same photos then on average we should be correct the same amount of time as the human being to identify the photos. Our aim however is to be correct 100% of the time and therefore we added the option for users to add photos that are identified incorrectly so we can improve accuracy over time. Make your phone "see" using this exciting technology and enhance your birding experience like never before. Simply upload a picture of a bird that you want to identify and let NatureAi identify it for you using the latest Artificial Intelligence technology."
Android and IOS - this app could only be found on the Google Play Store and not the Apple App store https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=e.rsa.natureai
Has adverts? - Yes, these are hidden within the Photo ID feature
Current rating on the Android Playstore - 4.3 stars with 15 ratings and more than 1000 downloads.In order to show consistency, I will search for a relatively well-known species on each app.
Upon opening the app for the first time, you are offered two search options namely Photo ID and Explore Birds. As stated in previous blogs, I will only focus on the app search functionality and not the AI aspect of this app where it is able to identify birds via photographs – this will be taken into account later in the review. Therefore I will unpack the “Explore Birds’ option.
As the name suggests this is an application focussed on South Africa and as such you are offered ID assistance on over 800 species.
Starting the ID process, typing in letters V-I-O immediately narrows down all birds with these letters in their name. There is no option for a smart search such as describing a bird using size, shape or colour as some of the other paid for applications have.
The text for each species is drawn from Wikipedia again and is thus updated periodically if at all. The description covers the basics of the species such as colour variation amongst sexes, size, behaviour, food, habitats and scientific names etc.
The photographs, and sometimes plates are pulled from Wikipedia. They are adequate given they are vetted by Wikipedia.
No as it links to Wikipedia directly (0)
User Interface (UI):
The app design is very simple and straight forward which is to be expected given it is very light on features. It offers a clean no frills approach to simple bird identification
· Distribution maps: Only for certain species and not all (0.5)
· Calls available in app: No (0)
· Location settings: No (0)
· Listing settings: No (0)
· Available Offline: No (0)
· Smart ID Feature: Yes (1)
The South African Bird Identifier app is a very basic and rudimentary application. If you do not have the means to purchase a bird application, this will suffice. Be aware that you will only be able to make use of this application if you are within wifi or cellular connectivity. It has got a smart identification feature which is ok, certainly not at the advanced level of other smart ID app