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Scottish tech firms using artificial intelligence to protect natural environment

They have long been viewed with mistrust, fuelled by the mistaken belief  they would take over the world.

But now rather than being seen as a menace, artificial intelligence is used as a force for good by health trusts, software giants and app developers who use the technology to benefit society.

Edinburgh satellite firm Space Intelligence has teamed up with the Scottish Wildlife Trust to use artificial intelligence (AI) to interpret large volumes of satellite data and map wildlife habitat to help restore, connect and protect Scotland’s natural environment.

The project is in early development but will make use of the satellites, both radar and optical, operated by Nasa and the European Space Agency to gather the information.

Murray Collins, chief executive of Space Intelligence, said: “The Scottish Wildlife Trust wants to work with partners to understand where the last remaining bits of natural forests are along rivers.

“This information is not easily available or up to date. What we’re able to do is take satellite data and analyse it with artificial intelligence to map where the remaining forest is.”

When ready to trial, test sites will be analysed and opportunities to connect the remaining areas of forest and woodland identified to create wildlife corridors along the rivers.

This project is the first of its kind in Scotland and Mr Collins will forge relationships with similar initiatives in the UK to share knowledge as it develops.

He said “This project will enable our partners in the Scottish Wildlife Trust to revolutionise the way that they map and analyse wildlife habitat, and plan for the future. Working together we will set the technological foundations to help protect, restore and connect vital components of Scotland’s natural environment in response to the ecological crisis and climate emergency.”

The pioneering project is one of seven in Scotland awarded a prize fund of £105,000 to champion the use of AI to solve social issues.

The AI for Good Programme, run by innovation foundation Nesta, aims to showcase Scottish talent and demystify artificial intelligence.

Each of the seven winning projects were awarded £15,000.

Researchers from the University of Edinburgh are using AI to develop a prosthetic limb that augments the user’s abilities to control their limb, reducing some of the concentration and brain power required to conduct everyday tasks, such as gripping a pen or catching a ball.

Another Edinburgh institution, Heriot-Watt University, will use AI to address gender stereotypes in smart assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri, predominantly modelled as young women, by designing and testing new personas and adapting the responses of conversational assistants.

A group from City of Glasgow College is using AI to build speech profiles for regional Scottish accents to support adult learners using an adult literacy voice-recognition app.

A partnership between tech company Voxsio, NHS Forth Valley and groups of young people from Stirlingshire is developing Allichat, an AI-powered chatbot for young people to discuss mental health issues.

The technology will help young people to start a conversation about their mental health and can personalise advice and help individuals better understand their own issues.

Bishopbriggs-based tech firm Red Star AI is working to improve the diagnosis and treatment of diabetes patients, predicting risk of hospitalisation and non-response to standard therapies, by using forms of AI called Natural Language Processing and Machine Learning to analyse the discharge letters and clinical notes of 110,000 historic diabetes patients.  

Source: The Herald

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