Integrate with Siri- Possible to safely make accurate obs from car, hands-free?

I’d like to make casual observations from the car using Siri. Obviously I’m not going to be taking pictures while driving but I see stuff along the road all the time I want to map easily. If anyone has any ideas for doing that easily let me know.

“Hey Siri, record bobcat at current position on iNat”

Convince a lot of Apple employees to try iNaturalist out so that a seemingly niche command as above surprisingly works when tried. :)

I don’t have Siri, but does it have a “mark map” type command?

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Not sure why you’re saying post withdrawn

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This seems more like a question than a specific feature request and I don’t think we will be integrating iNaturalist with Siri in any meaningful way, so I’m moving it to Nature Talk.

That being said, in my experience when using Siri to play music in my car, it takes a decent amount of time for Siri to “understand” what I’m saying to it, and I think my location would be quite far from where I originally spotted something.

I believe @ck2az might be our top roadside observer, they might have some tips.


I didn’t realize that at the time it was in the feature request forum, and I responded thinking it was in a regular forum, so I deleted my post.

That is just what it says when someone deletes a post. It is not saying that you should delete your post.

I undeleted the post now that it has been moved to a regular forum

Yeah, this is definitely true. When you add observations from the car (as a passenger!) by the time you actually get the observation opened and the GPS coordinates hone in, if you’re traveling at any reasonable clip, the observation can be dozens or hundreds of meters away from the actual location, and it will say accuracy=5 meters or whatever. So each location has to be manually edited to approximate and generalize the location and accuracy. Also maybe just my slow oldish phone, but the Google Assistant thing is so slow that my pinpoint would probably end up twice as far away as when adding observations manually.

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It depends on your GPS signal
Remember GPS works better at speed and attitude
The verible or offset depends on the speed of the of the moving object
My experience is plus or minus 150-200 feet
I uploaded 2500 observations and single handily checked for errors
And it’s really not the bad, as I speak I have over a dozen research / grad
And another group doing work using some of my road observations based on the
Feedback everything they have used has been verified
Also of note some observations I’ve done at a stand still using a camera have distances of up to
3000 feet but you don’t see that on the map because most of the time
I don’t reset the location to reflect it

I’ve never used Siri before
I use a total of 4 different camera and video platforms to do observations
The apple phone I use is good with the burst mode of taking photos but pictures
Often very in quality I know someone
On INat that uses a remote on there smart phone to take photos on open roads with the phone mounted on the dashboard

There are image exif fields that would suggest that (depending on the capabilities of the phone/gps) such things as speed and bearing/direction are factored in. Most of the time bearing and direction read the same angle, which would suggest the photo is taken at rest or at least facing in the same direction as you are travelling. I haven’t tested it, but I imagine if you were in a vehicle taking a photo out the side window, then the two values would differ by ~90deg.

I struck a situation where I was using my phone to geo locate a tree under a fairly dense canopy, but with patches of open space. When overhead was clear, the GPS would read and show where I was on the map with +/- 5m accuracy, and tracked my path as I moved fairly accurately. I noticed when I went under the canopy again, it would track my movement, but the accuracy circle would gradaually get larger, and I noticed that as I went around corners in the path, the tracking on the phone showed me still travelling in a straight line. Then when I got to the next clearing, the tracking would snap over to where I actually was and the accuracy circle would go back down to the +/-5m. When I got home, I looked up my phone, and found that the specs were that it had an accelerometer, but not a magnetometer, so I think it could sense that I was moving, but just not in what direction.

When you are in a vehicle, a good chunk of the sky will be covered by “canopy”, assuming you are not in a convertible of course! When I am passenger in a vehicle and I see anything unusual out the window, I would take a photo out the window to get the GPS and time so that I can at least make a casual obs for it. I leave my camera on the dashboard with the LCD viewing screen turned off so that it uses less battery, but is ready to quickly take a photo if needed. Even with just having to turn back on the LCD (much quicker than a full startup, and GPS will have a better view of the sky from there) I still miss more than I manage to get.

Good question how do I do my road observations
I’ll start with I use multiple cameras
I take my time (a five four road trip normally takes me 12 plus hours :grinning:)
It’s normal for me to pump out around 10-12,000 photos a month
With around 5-6,000 being usable then maybe 2500-4000 give or take posted
The cameras I was using in the when I first started was a iPhone and a cheep
Cannon camera but like all hobbyist I’m now using two Nikons one a P-900
And the 1000 two GoPro cameras a iphoneXR and a Commercial Drone
And a ton of patience a remote device would be nice to have
Siri wouldn’t work because I have a 3 and a 6 year old who love to sing
And talk so it wouldn’t work, I don’t think
I’ll add some more tips and tricks on this thread in a few


I think voice activation is with specific sequences, such as “hey siri” or “ok google”, not sure of the specifics though. Also, i think it can be “trained” to your voice pattern. But yes, background noise, no matter how pleasant it might be, could be a problem!

Sharing this possibly helpful comment from @jon_sullivan in a different topic thread:

When I’m biking, I’ve also got my bluetooth microphone (a Sony ECMAW4 Wireless Microphone) which I clip onto my helmet so I can make observations (geotagged, timestamped audio notes) while riding. I use a Bic ballpoint pen as a scale for all my roadkill photos (one day I should swap it out with a short ruler but the pen does the job).

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Thanks @mira_l_b.

I make a lot of nature observations on the move, but I decided early on that doing so while driving was dangerously distracting. I also gave up on Siri—too slow and not nearly accurate enough with my Kiwi accent.

Nature watching while biking works better. I have a bluetooth microphone on my helmet and the transmitter plugged into my iPhone on my handlebars. I use a simple Filemaker Go app I built with a big button. I tap my iPhone screen once to start a recording and tap again to stop. It records my audio note with a geotag and date-time-stamp. I’m using Amazon Transcribe to turn my spoken notes into text. Doing this makes thousands of observations each week from my daily bike ride to and from work.

Recording while a passenger in a car works well too. In that case I type quick shorthand notes into my Filemaker Go app (e.g., “bbg lm1f” for one black-backed gull on left mid-distance flying). Those are all geotagged and date-time-stamped too. I’ve made some R scripts to expand those shorthand notes out into full observations on my computer.

Only when something’s important or needs ID do I take a photo (I take a lot of photos from vehicles when I’m travelling overseas). Those photos all end up on iNat (eg lots of my photos from my recent trip to California were taken from a moving car).

Text observations can be uploaded in bulk to iNat with the spreadsheet upload option (although I don’t do that, yet).


It would be soooo cool if there was a recorder app for android that did this. The recorder app that I use doesn’t geotag, and the stop/start is a fairly small button on the screen.

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I ended up setting up an ios shortcut that finds my location and writes out my dictation to a note. It is pretty slow to get the location so the accuracy won’t be all that but I’m mostly using this to be able to refind places. If it’s interesting enough to make a stop I’ll geotag the way I normally do.


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