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Scientists Are Teaching Drones to Find Lost Hikers

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Scientists in Switzerland are developing drones that can pick out forest trails as skillfully as an expert hiker. The drones use a color camera to identify footpaths through wooded areas and are equipped with deep neural network software (the same technology that allowed Google Deep Dream to create those nightmare images) that has been programmed to recognize the signs of a trail and to avoid overhanging branches and vegetation. Though the drones are still in development, they could one day help rescue teams find lost hikers.

According to Entrepreneur, the artificially intelligent drones are a step up from others because they are able to fly below the tree canopy, keeping close to hiking and biking paths where travelers are most likely to get lost. They are also autonomous and can even identify overgrown paths better than some humans.

"Interpreting an image taken in a complex environment such as a forest is incredibly difficult for a computer," explains Dr. Alessandro Giusti, one of the researchers from the Dalle Molle Institute for Artificial Intelligence working on the project, in a press release. “Sometimes even humans struggle to find the trail!"

Researchers believe that, eventually, drones will work in conjunction with search and rescue teams to reduce the workload of rescue workers and help hikers get rescued faster. “Many technological issues must be overcome before the most ambitious applications can become a reality. But small flying robots are incredibly versatile, and the field is advancing at an unseen pace,” says Luca Maria Gambardella, director of the Dalle Molle Institute for Artificial Intelligence. “One day robots will work side by side with human rescuers to make our lives safer."

[h/t Entrepreneur]

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Animals
Rare Video Captures a White Giraffe and Her Baby in the Wild
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A towering, white giraffe looks like something that's stepped out of a fantasy book. But these creatures, while rare, are very real, and they've recently been sighted in Kenya.

As The Guardian reports, the snowy-white mother and child were filmed by conservationists in the Ishaqbini Hirola Conservancy in the eastern part of the country. After learning of the giraffes from nearby villagers, the Hirola Conservation Programme (HCP) went off in search of them with their cameras ready. HCP wrote in a blog post: "They were so close and extremely calm and seemed not disturbed by our presence. The mother kept pacing back and forth a few yards in front of us while signaling the baby giraffe to hide behind the bushes—a characteristic of most wildlife mothers in the wild to prevent the predation of their young."

The condition that lends the creatures their pale coats isn't albinism but a genetic mutation called leucism. Animals with leucism have trouble producing pigments in their skin, fur, and feathers. (This doesn't affect soft tissue, which is why the giraffes' eyes are still dark.) Leucism can be observed in some selectively bred species, like peacocks and axolotls, but in wild giraffes, it's incredibly rare. According to HCP, this event marks one of only three known sightings of a white giraffe.

Reticulated giraffes of any coloring are scarce to begin with: There are an estimated 8500 specimens alive in the wild today. Fortunately the conservancy where the white giraffes were spotted has more than 75 square miles of land where they can roam safely.

[h/t The Guardian]

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Live Smarter
All National Parks Are Offering Free Admission On September 30
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Looking for something to do this month that's both outdoorsy and free? To kick off the National Park Service's second century of operation, you can visit any one of the more than 400 parks on September 30, 2017 for free.

While the majority of the NPS's parks are free year-round, they'll be waiving admission fees to the more than 100 parks that normally require an entrance fee. Which means that you can pay a visit to the Grand Canyon, Death Valley, Yosemite, or Yellowstone National Parks without reaching for your wallet.

The National Park Service, which celebrated its 100th birthday last year, maintains 417 designated NPS areas that span more than 84 million acres across every state, plus Washington, D.C., American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.

If you can't make it to the great outdoors this month, you can tag along with Hamilton star Jordan Fisher, who took us on a tour of Alexander Hamilton’s New York City home, the Hamilton Grange National Memorial, earlier this year.

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