Central Coast researchers use artificial intelligence for ocean exploration

The vast amount of underwater data now available from autonomous vehicles and marine sensors is overwhelming for scientists, so a team at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) is using artificial intelligence (AI) to develop algorithms that make the process easier. . Algorithms are the guidelines used to program computers and make them smarter.

“I want intelligent vehicles to go out to sea and scan and look for new life,” MBARI engineer Kakani Katija said.

Katija and her team received a grant from the National Science Foundation to develop a new database called FathomNet for collecting and labeling underwater imagery.

There is a lot we don’t know about the ocean and its inhabitants, and AI is a powerful tool for underwater exploration, she said.

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“Scientists estimate that 30 to 60% of ocean life remains undiscovered,” Katija said.

She uses existing images to build algorithms for marine robots. She said the more images she collects, the better her algorithms become.

“I’m throwing up [in] Different images of a jellyfish, or different images and views of a shark, and the algorithm starts to pull together the features that distinguish those animals — with some relative certainty, say it’s a jellyfish, or it’s a shark,” she said.

Katija said the technology also allows scientists to monitor the impacts of climate change or other threats to the ocean.


Joost Daniels © 2019 MBARI


MBARI Principal Engineer Kakani Katija tests the MesoBot, a new generation of underwater robot, during its first field trials aboard MBARI’s research vessel Rachel Carson in Monterey Bay. Mesobot is being developed by engineers at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and MBARI.

“Robotic vehicles can monitor a place for a long time. “We will have a constant monitoring presence at one location to alert us whenever something is different or changes,” Katija explained.

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Fathomnet database scientists, marine industries, and The public The project team is also developing a video game.

“Through video gaming, people can be invited to participate in this exploration of the ocean. “You may be the first person to look at this footage of an animal completely unknown to science,” she said.

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Pokemon Go is an example of an interactive game that Katija said she wanted to create for sea exploration.

“A game like Pokemon Go completely changed people’s behavior because they were looking for fake animals, and how we can change behavior through games or gaming around animals that live on our planet that we don’t know much about,” she said. .

The video game is slated for release next year. The aim of the players is to add to the knowledge bank while becoming good stewards of the ocean, she said.

You can find out more about FathomNet at nature.com.


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