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idTracker identifies and tracks you or any animal in a group

A new software program called the idTracker identifies and tracks any animal in a group. In the longer term, the method also can be applied to recognize people in large crowds or vehicles or parts in a factory. Developers are the CSIC (Spanish National Research Council -CSIC) that developed software able to identify and track an specific individual within a group, says a new study, "Tracking individuals in a group by automatic identification of unmarked animals," published online June 1, 2014 in Nature Methods Journal.

idTracker identifies and tracks you or any animal in a group.
Anne Hart, illustration and photography.

idTracker is very easy to use, the developers explain. Authors are Alfonso Pérez-Escudero, Julián Vicente-Page, Robert C. Hinz, Sara Arganda y Gonzalo G. de Polavieja. You also may wish to check out the site, "About - idTracker - Automatic tracking of multiple animals." The transformation of individual animal images acquired from videos into unique reference fingerprints allows for robust tracking of individuals in groups and reidentification of individuals between sightings and across different videos.

Can similar software also be used to track any person in a group?

Among the applications of this software, Alfonso Pérez Escudero, CSIC researcher, also during the preparation of this study, notes, according to the June 1, 2014 news release, "CSIC develops a software able to identify and track an specific individual within a group," that "in the short term, this will be used in science, but in the longer term, the method we have developed can be applied to recognize people in large crowds, vehicles or parts in a factory, for instance."

The program, idTracker, detects and follows every animal in the videos and allows to know the behavior rules of their social interaction. It's easy to follow the route traced by an animal by using video recordings of the animal. The problem arises when the behavior of two or more individuals is studied, as animals often cross or interact with other members of the group and wrong assignments of identity for each animal occur. These faults make virtually impossible to identify an individual after several minutes of video. idTracker has been developed at de Polavieja lab, Cajal Institute (Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas) in Madrid, Spain.

Animals in groups touch each other, move in paths that cross, and interact in complex ways

Current video tracking methods sometimes switch identities of unmarked individuals during these interactions. These errors propagate and result in random assignments after a few minutes unless manually corrected. We present idTracker, a multitracking algorithm that extracts a characteristic fingerprint from each animal in a video recording of a group.

It then uses these fingerprints to identify every individual throughout the video. Tracking by identification prevents propagation of errors, and the correct identities can be maintained indefinitely. idTracker distinguishes animals even when humans cannot, such as for size-matched siblings, and reidentifies animals after they temporarily disappear from view or across different videos. It is robust, easy to use and general. We tested it on fish (Danio rerio and Oryzias latipes), flies (Drosophila melanogaster), ants (Messor structor) and mice (Mus musculus).

Researchers from the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) have developed a software based on the discovery of some algorithms that enable the identification of each individual, therefore allowing their tracking within the group. Thus, the door opens to the quantitative study of the rules of social interaction for many species. You may wish to check out the abstract of the work published in the Nature Methods Journal.

Animals that move in groups make decisions considering what other members of their community do. To find out the rules of these interactions, researchers record monitoring videos through which they study the behavior of different individuals. However, existing monitoring methods so far show identification errors throughout the video, which makes that assignment of identity is wrong.

Researchers from the Cajal Institute (CSIC) have developed a software called idTracker, a CSIC patent that enables tracking of animals through identification. The image of the individual, with its unique features, becomes the particular "footprint" of each animal, which allows tracking it although the human visual system can not. Even if they hide or temporarily disappear from the scene, these are recognized by the program when they enter the scene again.

Gonzalo G. de Polavieja, CSIC researcher and head of the study, states, according to the June 1, 2014 news release, CSIC develops a software able to identify and track an specific individual within a group, "From now on, we will be able to quantitatively determine the rules of animal behavior in groups taking into account the individuality of each animal."

Frame by frame tracking

The software identification system first performs a search of the specimens when they are separated and can be differentiated. Since then, the program identifies and recognizes its image in every frame of the video. The identification is automatically done by extracting the 'footprint' of each animal. Thus, the routes that each of them took can be determined. De Polavieja adds: "Furthermore, it is possible to study the same individual in several videos because its 'footprint' is always the same. This enables a better understanding of their behavior".

Researchers claim that idTracker is a very easy to use software that can be used with a variety of different species. They explain, according to the news release, "We have done tests with fish (Danio rerio and Oryzias latipes), flies (Drosophila melanogaster), ants (Messor structor) and mice (Mus musculus), but it can be applied to other animals."

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