Homework: An Artifically Intelligent Scarecrow To Scare Away Elephants…

Below is an amended article from the New Scientist DAILY NEWS 16 November 2017. With thanks to Dr Scott Turner of Northampton University for tweeting the link:

Elephants can damage nut and banana plantations because they are too big, tough and smart to scare off once they start eating. Now, Australian researchers have developed an AI scarecrow that can do the job.

Scarecrow technology has a long history of failure, and not just for elephants –  animals quickly get used to scarecrows and ignore them. Many growers have described birds perching and even roosting on devices that were designed to scare them off. So researchers from CSIRO, Australia’s national research organization, decided the answer was artificial intelligence.

Their AI scarecrow has three elements: sensors that detect what kind of pest is approaching, a processing brain to identify them and decide how best to respond, and deterrent devices that can respond intelligently with the right combination of sound or light.

Then it is loaded with a library of predator sounds, animal alarm calls and irritating tones, as well as its own self-generated noises – anything we would consider as scary or startling – leopard and tiger growls can make elephants depart the sceneIt’s also well known that elephants are terrified of bees.
This won’t just help people – it could also save elephants. Vivek Thuppil of the University of Nottingham says that 400 people and 100 elephants die each year in India alone in due to human-elephant conflict, often triggered by crop raiding.

Some questions for you to answer to discuss next Tuesday:

  • Can you say what AI stands for and describe in your own words what it is?
  • Can you write an algorithm for this scarecrow (If This, Then That)?
  • What do you think this scarecrow should look like?
  • Can you think of any other uses for this invention?
  • Can anyone try to code a project like this in Scratch?! Prize: anyone who makes it in Scratch can work as a small team with one of our lovely volunteers to try to then develop it using Micro:bits.



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About nic schofield

I’m a primary schools computing technician, interested in teaching children, their teachers & their parents, about IoT, computational thinking and implications of technology on their lives and encouraging children to think critically about technology to influence change in the world.

29 thoughts on “Homework: An Artifically Intelligent Scarecrow To Scare Away Elephants…

  1. have you used the honey bees sound to sacre the elephants i have watched several videos that sound scares the elephants


  2. What if the scarecrow had fake bees so they wouldn’t hurt the elephants. It will keep the elephants safe but it still scares them away.


    • Thats a great idea. That would scare away the elephants and save their lives. Elephants die because they try to eat the crops but then the farmers shoot them.


  3. Can the scarecrow move its limbs? If not, in I think that they should add that feature because it may add on to the effect of making a predator noise. Also, another use for the AI (artificial intelligent) scarecrow is :
    Hide the scarecrow somewhere in a restricted area
    when some unauthorized people enter the area, the scarecrow makes a predator noise, scaring the unauthorized people away.


    • Hi George, if you had read the blog earlier you would have seen this already!
      Good find though – what do you think of it? Scary stuff eh? Also, why, if it’s so intelligent, does it fall over the last time? Surely a robot is programmed exactly the same each time?


  4. Wow! I’m not sure how a scarecrow-looking AI would be the greatest. I think it should blend into it’s surroundings as I think that’ll be more effective.


  5. You could use it to recognise specific faces and if they were friendly when they came home or to visit the AI would give them a warm welcome and play their favourite music. If anyone other than these friendly people came to visit it would give them a cold welcome in a creepy voice and make it pitch black with whispering voices to scare them away!


    • Wow, awesome idea! If I was an unfriendly person,in my dad’s words
      ‘I would poop my pants’! The bottom line is: wow.


  6. I think the scarecrow should be camouflage so it gives the animals more of a shock when they hear the noise it makes. I think it should sit in a tree but look like a branch, then it will be high enough to see animals coming from a distance which will give it time to think.


  7. AI stands for Artificial Intelligence. I think this means that a human has programmed a computer to think like humans by giving it an algorithm that mimic a persons way of thinking e.g if you see a big grey thing with a long nose make a noise like a bee.


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