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​How AI could help save the humble sea cow

Google's neural network software is being used to scan thousands of photos to detect the cute mammals threatened by extinction.

This guy could benefit from Google's AI tech.

Artificial-intelligence tech has been moving out of academic circles into real-world applications like screening out spam or making it look like Van Gogh painted your photo. But now it's also tapping our weakness for cute sea creatures threatened by extinction.

Enter the sea cow. The large marine animal is really hard to keep track of. Researchers are using drones to take aerial photos of the ocean, but detecting them in those photos is a challenging task...for humans.

That's where Google's TensorFlow neural network software project comes in, developer advocate Josh Gordon explained in a story posted Wednesday to Google's machine learning blog.

Using the open-source TensorFlow software, researcher Amanda Hodgson of Murdoch University and her team built a detector to find sea cows in the photos, Gordon said.

The same AI approach could be used to track other threatened populations, ensuring that sea cows will have some playmates.