If you’ve ever gone hiking and come across plants and animals you were unfamiliar with, and wanted to know more, there’s now an app for that. You could try to describe what you see and type it into Google. But you might not get the proper results. However, similar to Shazam—an app which identifies music from audio recordings—the Seek app allows you to identify plants and animals from your photos using image recognition technology.
Released earlier this month by iNaturalist, Seek (free on iOS) combines the gamification and collection aspects of Pokémon Go with exploration of the natural world. Seek works like this: The app uses your general location to generate a list of plants and animals you’re likely to encounter in the area. And each plant and animal listing in the app also includes photos and useful facts. You can then snap photos of those species as you come across them, adding them to your virtual collection. Fun and educational for both kids and adults, users can earn badges while they learn about each new species they photograph.
The site’s co-founder Scott Loarie explains, “The only way we can improve our modelling of species is to get more data, and to do that we need more people outside taking pictures.”
The app, which doesn’t require any sort of registration, includes a warning after you first download the app. This is to ensure you don’t do anything unwise in your quest for badges. This includes things like not to trespass, harass wildlife, or eat anything you find in the wild. The AI for Seek currently recognizes 30,000 species, and will continue to improve with further use.
If you’re interested in getting out there and exploring, you can download the Seek app on iOS devices. Or if you’re looking for another Shazam-like device to find out the colour of an object, click here.