We’re excited to announce the release of a new version of our Seek by iNaturalist app, available now for iOS and Android! You can read more about it in the blog post. Just like iNat’s computer vision suggestions, Seek would not be possible without the contributions of our incredible community of observers and identifiers.
In this post, we’ll try to answer some of the questions we expect the iNaturalist community will have.
How is Seek different than iNaturalist?
- It is not a social network; no accounts are created, and no observations are publicly shared.
- It only uses computer vision results for identifications rather than computer vision + crowdsourcing.
- You can earn badges by observing different species and by completing challenges.
- It’s not contributing to citizen science (because it doesn’t share data).
- It’s kid-friendly (because it doesn’t share data).
How does the Seek camera work (technically)?
When you use the camera in Seek, our vision model analyzes the frames of the camera feed to provide live ID suggestions as you point the camera at an organism. Unlike the iNaturalist online-only vision model, the Seek camera uses an on-device computer vision model which allows the in-camera predictions to give you instant feedback, including the level of specificity of its current prediction. Here’s a preview video:
In addition to being byte-wise smaller than our online model so it will fit on mobile devices, this new model was trained to include more photos representing more species. The model includes species as well as non-species “leaf nodes” in cases where individual species do not have enough photos to train on, but their collective genus does. We hope this will help Seek identify more organisms, if sometimes to a rank higher than species.
Will it work on my device?
You can download Seek on iPhones and iPads running iOS 9.0 or higher, but you must have iOS 11.0 or higher to see the in-camera predictions. For Android devices, you need 6.0 or higher. Note that older devices may experience much slower performance of the in-camera predictions.
Why might I get different suggestions from the same photo on Seek and iNaturalist?
The model we trained for Seek isn’t implemented yet for iNaturalist. We are still learning a lot about how to get the highest success and lowest error rate, and the use case for iNaturalist and Seek are different enough that the two may not ever have precisely identical results.
What else should I know about using Seek if I’m used to using iNaturalist?
- Photos taken in the Seek iOS app won’t have geotags, so be aware of that if you’re planning to use the photos later for iNaturalist.
- Your badges are stored only on your device, and there’s no backup (because there are no Seek accounts). If you delete the app, you lose your badges.
Who made it?
The first version of Seek (supported by HHMI Tangled Bank Studios) was initially iOS only, with @alexshepard and @joelle doing the heavy lifting on programing and design (respectively). Thanks to the additional support from WWF/Our Planet, @albullington joined the team as the primary engineer and @abhasm as designer and product manager. The computer vision innovations are thanks to @gvanhorn with support from @alexshepard, @pleary, and @loarie. @budowski and @kueda helped with the Android implementation and @alexshepard helped on iOS. @tiwane and @carrieseltzer did whatever was needed that didn’t require programming or design (like this post). Our contacts at WWF/Our Planet @mlarsendaw and @noah51 designed the challenges and coordinated the translations. Everyone contributed to its evolution and provided feedback.
Please write reviews if you can!
Once you’ve taken Seek for a spin, we’d appreciate if you would rate the app and share a brief review that describes where you used it and what worked (or didn’t). You can see that earlier app store reviews have some feedback that isn’t very specific, or some expectations for its performance that weren’t met (e.g. common houseplants). We’re trying to do a better job of messaging Seek’s intended use case (e.g. it’s not for breeds of dogs or cultivars of daffodils), and app reviews from the iNaturalist community would be valuable in steering potential Seekers in the right direction when they download it. After all, Seek only works because of you, the iNaturalist community. Thank you!