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Scientists Design Barcode System For Zebras 58

Posted by samzenpus
from the arranging-your-stripes dept.
A team of biologists and computer scientists has come up with a unique barcode-like system for tracking zebras called Stripespotter. The system is able to automatically identify zebras from pictures with a much higher accuracy than traditional methods. Its creators say it can be modified to track any animal with unique coat patterns such as giraffes or tigers.
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Scientists Design Barcode System For Zebras

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  • by spartacus_prime (861925) on Sunday April 10, 2011 @06:33PM (#35776448) Homepage
    They ALREADY look like bar codes.
    • by Tablizer (95088) on Sunday April 10, 2011 @06:43PM (#35776490) Homepage Journal

      And they are too heavy to move up on the checkout counter in a back-and-forth motion.

      • Thats why they made hand scanners
        • by Tablizer (95088)

          shhhhh, it's only a model

          • From RTFT, my first thought was that scientists had:
            1) put barcodes physically on some Zebras to identify them
            2) found that the stripes on the Zebras interfered with reading said barcodes
            3) came up with an alternative to barcodes that they could put on the Zebras that could be read without interference.

            I was disappointed to find out they were using the Zebra's native stripes as a pseudo-barcode.

            Now I will have to find another way to track individual boxes that are covered with stripes that interfere with re

    • by osu-neko (2604)
      That's the point! Nature barcodes them for us, we just need to use a barcode reader to identify them as individuals. It's brilliant!
    • by WrongSizeGlass (838941) on Sunday April 10, 2011 @07:02PM (#35776586)
      OK, there's a new addition on my list of "Jobs I don't ever want to have": I don't want to be the guy who has to lift up a Zebra's tail to verify his check digit.
    • .. if you look carefully you will see that all zeebas have the UPC 666.

      • by LocalH (28506)

        Good thing we're talking about zebras then, else I'd be worried.

        • by hawguy (1600213)

          .. if you look carefully you will see that all zeebas have the UPC 666.

          Good thing we're talking about zebras then, else I'd be worried.

          A Zeeba [wikipedia.org] *is* a Zebra. It's just that crocodiles [wikipedia.org] aren't great spellers.

    • by DG (989) on Sunday April 10, 2011 @10:43PM (#35777542) Homepage Journal

      On a whim, I pointed my BlackBerry with ScanLife (one of those square barcode reader apps) at the picture of the zebras in the article, and got redirected to a Groupon for discount rates on an African safari.

      Man, *everybody* has sold out.

      DG

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I thought April Fool's was over already?

    • by easyTree (1042254)

      Didn't you get the memo? In Idle, it's GroundHog^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^HApril Fool's day, every day of the year.

  • You really can tell a Zebra by its stripes? Or is that tigers...
  • by Lord Byron II (671689) on Sunday April 10, 2011 @06:46PM (#35776514)

    The article didn't say who did the research, but I'm pretty sure that this was done by the CS department at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). I've seen some "zebra barcode" images up on their campus. Here's the link to their "Images of Research" page (along with a picture of the zebras:

    http://grad.uic.edu/cms/?pid=1000950 [uic.edu]

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by JackpotMonkey (703880)
      This may be the first time in the history of slashdot where a link to pictures of animals wasn't a trap
    • by kabloom (755503)

      Yes, StripeSpotter is a UIC project. See the Google Code page [google.com] for the software.

    • by 517714 (762276)
      But they pixelated the wrong part of the animal.
    • yup, this is a UIC project. This is the grad student who won the Image of Research prize: http://compbio.cs.uic.edu/~mayank/ [uic.edu]
      • And he will be defending his dissertation on Friday.

        We might not be as famous as our sister school down in the middle of the corn field a.k.a. Chambana but we have tons of stuff that they don't have, famous people like Bill Ayers for example.

        • by Sulphur (1548251)

          And he will be defending his dissertation on Friday.

          We might not be as famous as our sister school down in the middle of the corn field a.k.a. Chambana but we have tons of stuff that they don't have, famous people like Bill Ayers for example.

          Is he barcoded too?

    • I'm convinced that this is a post by a colleague of mine ;-)

      http://www.muzu.tv/colinmather/colin-mather-my-name-is-mather-official-music-video-music-video/902070?country=ww&locale=en

      BTW the Isle of Man is great - so don't bother us...
    • I work in the Computer Vision and Robotics Lab (CVRL) where our office completely encapsulates the CompBio lab which published this. They only occupied a room smaller than a typical kitchen and only have a handful of people in it, but the stuff they pull off so far is amazing.

    • by Idbar (1034346)
      The article has a link to the application, where states that they collaborated. From the code page:

      Acknowledgements

      This work is part of a project performed in the joined Princeton-UIC Computational Population Biology Course in Spring 2010 (http://compbio.cs.uic.edu/~tanya/teaching/KenyaCourse.html), with co-instructors Tanya Berger-Wolf (University of Illinois at Chicago), Daniel Rubenstein and Iain Couzin (Princeton University), who were instrumental in several parts of this research. We thank he Kenya Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (research permit MOST 13/001/29C 80Vol.11 to D.I. Rubenstein), the staff at Mpala Resarch Centre, Kenya and fellow graduate students at EEB-Princeton University and CS at University of Illinois at Chicago. Funding was provided by Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology of Princeton University, generous contribution by Bill Unger (for the UIC students in the course), UIC College of Engineering, Department of Computer Science at UIC, UIC Graduate Research Award (Lahiri), NSF III-CXT 0705311 (Rubenstein) and IIS-CTX-0705822 and NSF IIS-CAREER-0747369 (Berger-Wolf).

  • by Tablizer (95088)

    I'll crash it by painting a horse with horizontal stripes.

  • Man, I just got used to the manual system.

    Don't ask.

  • We have had Zebra printers forever, about time we can scan what we print.

  • Scientists invented a system sounds like they're putting little checkout stickers on the zebras. What they've done is learnt to read what any imprinting newborn zebra foal must learn to read instinctively in the first couple of hours of life.

  • Genetically modify Zebras to have QR codes instead of stripes.
  • Researchers at the University of Botswana have taken this research a step further and decoded the encoding of stripes and the underlying alphabet. One young zebra, limping along the savannah nursing his fresh wounds, was decoded to read "lions suck!" while another slightly older male's markings were decoded to read "I got deep throated by a giraffe but all I got was this lousy T-shirt".

  • A few more decades and we would have been out of tigers! Add another hundred and we will probably out of zebras too.

  • These so-called "zebras" are actually horses. The scientists are being tricked because they are looking at them through COLOR video cameras, which in the natural habitat of the horses pick up vertical distortions from the background and make "stripes" appear on the animals. They are actually barcoding the terrain and vegetation, not the animals.

    There was a similar problem with a 1960s television show; if you don't believe me, check Snopes.

    • by Zorque (894011)

      Or they could have thought of that and figured out a way to solve the problem.

  • What a useful way to spend money !

  • I'd look into getting some long trenchcoats, for anonymity.
  • ...that this didn't already exist, did zoologists only just learn about computers or something?

  • I finally have a way to keep track of those pesky zebras running about the place who just *will not* stay where they are put. I'll sleep easy tonight.

The only thing cheaper than hardware is talk.

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