‘Bear-dar’ might help humans keep their distance from Polar Bears : NPR

Ayesha Rascoe talks with B.J. Kirschhoffer of Polar Bears Worldwide about “bear-dar,” a brand new expertise that would assist scale back polar bear run-ins with folks in Arctic communities.


As local weather change has decreased sea ice within the Arctic, polar bears have been spending extra time on land. That raises the probabilities of bear-human run-ins which are harmful for each. Now the conservation group Polar Bears Worldwide is testing a expertise they suppose may assist – Bear-dar. It is a radar system to clock incoming polar bears and warn folks shut by. Becoming a member of us now to speak about it’s B.J. Kirschhoffer, director of area operations for Polar Bears Worldwide. Welcome.

BJ KIRSCHHOFFER: Thanks for having me.

RASCOE: Are you able to speak somewhat bit extra in regards to the Bear-dar? Like, how does it work?

KIRSCHHOFFER: Positive. So the expertise that we’re utilizing is a motion-tracking radar. The actual gadget we’re testing is made by SpotterRF. They do a number of type of safety and protection type of contracts. This specific setup comes proper from them. And we’re utilizing it, after all, with animals and detecting the bears as they arrive in to a group or different delicate areas. The factor, actually, is in regards to the measurement of an iPad. It has no transferring components – fairly energy-efficient little gadget. And what it does is it simply primarily appears to be like for motion. If one thing’s transferring on the market, particularly one thing as large as a bear, it is fairly darn straightforward for this radar to see.

RASCOE: That is nonetheless within the testing part, proper? You have been testing the expertise in Churchill, Manitoba. How’s it working?

KIRSCHHOFFER: Yeah, so the gadget itself works very effectively. What we have came upon is that the gadget is extraordinarily delicate and it sees every thing – every thing right down to the little arctic foxes which are operating round, wolverines, wolves, moose – every thing. And actually, if that is going to be an efficient device round a group, we do not need it alerting on the moose. We would like it alerting solely on polar bears. And that is the place the AI element is available in. We’d like an correct device, and constructing AI fashions that may say precisely what the animal is out there may be the place we’re headed.

RASCOE: And the way a lot does this value, like, for the group?

KIRSCHHOFFER: Yeah, so these items are fairly costly. So do I believe it is going to be accessible for each group? To start out, in all probability not. However I believe as expertise progresses, these things will solely get extra cheap. We’re working with a gaggle out of Brigham Younger College – a gaggle of grad college students and professors – which are truly making a smaller gadget, a less-expensive gadget utilizing a number of the radars which are discovered on automobiles today to assist with a number of the self-driving or security options. And so when you begin mass-producing components like that, they get very, very low cost. So I believe there’s going to be a variety of potentialities sooner or later. However after all, you understand, the primary variations off the road are undoubtedly the costliest.

RASCOE: So are we speaking like tens of 1000’s, a whole bunch of 1000’s? How a lot are we right here?

KIRSCHHOFFER: Yeah, proper now, I imply, I believe we have now one thing like 100 thousand invested within the gear itself. Yeah, so it isn’t cheap in any respect.

RASCOE: And so what is the subsequent step on your group in growing this Bear-dar?

KIRSCHHOFFER: So we have two – type of two issues we’re engaged on proper now. Working with SpotterRF, we’re working to revamp our system. And so we’ll be implementing that within the subsequent 12 months. We will rebuild the AI fashions from scratch, and we’ll take a look at once more. Concurrently, we’re a extra cell platform, perhaps in locations the place a group would say, hey, this can be a excessive bear hall. And so it is type of virtually like a speedy response type of device. So this factor might be testing in Churchill, as effectively, within the coming 12 months to see the way it performs and likewise permit it to construct AI fashions for us.

RASCOE: That is B.J. Kirschhoffer from Polar Bears Worldwide. Thanks for becoming a member of us, B.J.

KIRSCHHOFFER: Thanks very a lot.

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