Have you ever wondered what birds were flying overhead while you slept or what critters crept through your yard unnoticed? Trail cams and the like can, to a certain extent, record what you miss, but they focus on visual information. The soundscape around us holds the real secrets, which means the dream device would not only record and stream environmental audio, but also help identify calls and ping you when something interesting flies overhead.
Terra sounds like that dream device.
The Terra Project is an exciting collaboration between bird guide author Scott Whittle, wildlife tracker manufacturer CTT, and non-profit Conservation Science Global. The actual Terra device–weatherproof, of course–includes two microphones, a radio receiver, and a bluetooth transceiver to deliver on a tasty set of features:
- Stream live audio from the yard to speakers or headphones with the included app
- Stream live audio from curated wild sites around the world
- Help identify the birds and animals in your yard with sound detection and analysis
- Detect radio-tagged birds that fly within several km
- Listen for and upload bird sounds to a central database for researchers and conservationists
I connected with David La Puma, a well-known birder who’s working on the Terra Project, to ask the obvious question: “Providing automatic identification of the birds in your yard or even those just passing overhead sounds too good to be true. Does Terra really do this accurately?”
According to David, yes, the Terra will do this accurately. “Our partners include experts in nocturnal flight call identification and analysis, and machine learning identification of birdsong. The technology already exists for much of it, but there are some areas of automatic ID that need work, and the Kickstarter funding will be focused on those parts of the equation. By the time the Terra ships we expect the automated ID to work very well in North America and Northern Mexico, and we will expand it throughout the Americas, the UK and Europe, and then across the globe.”
Wow, right? But also, what’s that about a Kickstarter? Miracle devices don’t exactly grow on trees, whereas crowdfunding can be a terrific way to bring exciting consumer products to market. The Terra Project Kickstarter goes live on Thursday, May 27, which establishes a clear path for you to vote with your wallet for a world in which Alexa lives in your backyard and tells you what’s creeping, crawling, and flying in your vicinity!
Actually, Terra sounds like a device that can integrate a wide array of sensors to provide rich environmental data while automating wildlife identification and data collection. If you find this as fascinating as I do, get in on the ground floor of the Terra Project Kickstarter.