Researchers used an AI algorithm to analyze social interactions of monkeys

An artificial intelligent program that recognizes and follows chimpanzees can make it easier to study the animals in the wild.

artificial intelligent program that recognizes and follows chimpanzees
Artificial intelligent program that recognizes and follows chimpanzees.

Computer scientist Arsha Nagrani from Oxford University and her colleagues have created artificially intelligent face recognition software that can identify individual chimpanzees on video recordings. 

As a result, it takes less time and resources to follow animals in their natural habitat and thus study their behavior.

Even in low light

The Nagrani team trained their algorithm with fifty hours of archive footage of chimpanzees made in southeastern Guinea. 

The video material of 23 monkeys, ranging from newborn to 57 years old, yielded 10 million images of their faces. Based on this, the algorithm 'learned' to recognize and track individual animals.

The algorithm also functioned well in low light and when the recordings were of poor quality. Images on which the chimpanzees did not look directly into the camera were no problem either. 

In 92 percent of the cases the program was able to identify the monkeys and in 96 percent of the cases it was able to determine their gender.

30 seconds or 55 minutes?

The researchers wanted to compare the skills of the algorithm with those of people. To that end, the team had both AI and humans identify monkeys on a hundred randomly selected still images.

The algorithm was right in 84 percent of the cases. Moreover, the program only needed 30 seconds for that. Researchers, who had experience with recognizing chimpanzees, took 55 minutes to complete the job.

Social network

The algorithm allows scientists to more efficiently determine how monkeys' behavior and social interactions change over the years and from generation to generation, says researcher Daniel Schofield. "This way you can build a social network."

Although the algorithm has been trained with photos of chimpanzees, it can also be used for other types of monkeys, the researchers say.

The research is published in the scientific journal Science Advances.