Play
Feb 19, 2020

What AI Hears in the Rainforest

As it turns out, the best way to track people who are cutting down trees is sound. (Photo: Marco Marques/Unsplash; RamCreativ/iStock)
As it turns out, the best way to track people who are cutting down trees is sound.

Topher White founded the nonprofit Rainforest Connection with the intent of creating a low-cost monitor that could help remote communities in their efforts to halt illegal logging, which is an enormous threat to tropical habitats. As it turns out, the best way to track people who are cutting down trees is sound. Using old cell phones linked to an artificial-intelligence platform in the cloud, White developed a system that can detect chainsaws in real time and send automated alerts to authorities. Today, Rainforest Connection is recording audio continuously from over a 1,000-square-miles of forest across 12 countries. That scale, along with rapid improvements in machine learning, have opened up tantalizing possibilities for understanding what the sounds of nature really mean.

The Outside Podcast

itunes logo Listen and subscribe on Apple Podcasts

tune in logo Listen and subscribe on Tune In

Listen and subscribe on Stitcher

spotify logo Listen and subscribe on Spotify

Outside’s longstanding literary storytelling tradition comes to life in audio with features that will both entertain and inform listeners. We launched in March 2016 with our first series, Science of Survival, which was developed in partnership with PRX, distributors of the idolized This American Life and The Moth Radio Hour, among others. We have since expanded our show and now offer a range of story formats, including interviews with the biggest figures in sports, adventure, and politics, as well as reports from our correspondents in the field.