Some people say that modern technology means people are losing their links with nature. We scoff at such arguments, and then look around a room lit by the glow of countless rectangular devices, before admitting that some people might have a point.
Warblr, then, is perhaps more than an app. It’s also a means of reconnecting with the world outside — at least the bit that has feathers, wings and sings a bit. And that’s because Warblr is effectively Shazam for British songbirds.
The real twitterers
The interface to Warblr is almost identical to Shazam’s. Tap on a button to record some birdsong, pointing your iPhone’s microphone in the winged one’s general direction. Hang around for a bit while magical processing happens online. Then stare at the list Warblr kicks out. This gives you species names and images, with a percentage score estimating the likelihood of each type of bird being in your recording.
Naturally, the variance of birdsong and the difficulties in recording make accuracy a tough prospect. It’s fairly unlikely you can blunder about your local woods, happen across an interesting bird, and demand it sing directly into your iPhone. Instead, you’ll often be recording ambient background song, and hoping for the best.
A bit quackers
During testing, even this was oddly pleasing. Distant birdsong still resulted in a list of species known to be local. With louder songs, the app was often accurate, although one of the development team confirmed it doesn’t tend to perform well with ducks after we got some puzzling results from loud quacks.
From a technical standpoint, the app feels a bit 1.0 and could do with some more features. If you’re not online, it can’t perform its magic, and, unfortunately, there’s no means of stashing recordings for later. It could also do with comparative recordings so you could pick out the birds making distinct noises when there’s a cacophony overhead.
Warblr is, however, part of a wider product, with recordings contributing to a ‘citizen science project’, where collected data will be made available for research and conservation purposes. And the more feedback that’s provided, the more data the system has, enabling it to improve. That’s got to be worth a few quid, even if your local ducks might get a bit narked about being continually ignored or mistaken for a woodpecker.