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Saving the Brazilian Amazon: These tree-shaped AI boxes can detect ‘the moment the destruction begins’

AI boxes attached to trees fight destructive invaders of Brazil’s Amazon rainforest.


Small artificially intelligent (AI) boxes attached to tree trunks in the Brazilian Amazon are the latest weapon against deforestation.

The boxes, named “curupiras” after a folkloric forest creature that preys on hunters and poachers, are equipped with sensors and software trained “to recognize the sounds of chainsaws and tractors, or anything that might cause deforestation,” explains Thiago Almeida, project manager.

They are used by scientists and environmentalists to combat destructive jungle invaders.

How was AI trained to prevent illegal deforestation?

“We recorded the sound of chainsaws and tractors in the forest,” explains Thiago. “Then all the collected sounds were transmitted to the AI team to train (the program) so that… it only recognizes these sounds and not the characteristic sounds of the forest, such as those of animals, vegetation and rain.

Once identified, the details of the threat can then be relayed to a central point and agents deployed to deal with it.

“The advantage of this system is that it can detect an attack… or a threat in real time,” explains researcher Raimundo Claudio Gomes of Amazonas State University, who initiated the project.

Unlike satellite data, which reveals Deforestation it is only after the fact that the curupiras can detect “the moment when the destruction begins,” he adds.

The sensors look like small Internet modems, but are actually wireless and can relay data up to a kilometer via satellite to other users on a network.

The project has just completed its pilot phase with 10 prototype boxes attached to trees in a densely forested area near Manaus, the country’s capital. Brazilthe northern Amazon state.

The boxes are named after Curupira, a creature from indigenous folklore that has backward-facing feet to confuse the hunters it pursues.

How effective are AI boxes in detecting criminal activity?

The first results of the project, funded by Brazilian company Hana Electronics, have been “very promising,” says Gomes.

The team is now seeking more funding to add hundreds of additional sensors to the system, including those that will be able to detect smoke and heat from Forest fires.

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva promised to end illegal activities Deforestation in the Amazon by 2030.

His far-right predecessor Jair Bolsonaro has led to a more than 75 percent increase in average annual deforestation in the Amazon compared to the previous decade.

Gomes said that unlike systems based on audio sensors already used in other countries, the Manaus project is relatively inexpensive because it does not require large antennas for data transmission.

Each sensor costs around €200 to €300 to manufacture.

Video Editor • Joanna Adhem


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