Are the red kites really writing their own blogs?
Well the answer is yes and no….
All our kites are fitted, safely by experts from the RSPB, with backpacks that hold a satellite tag. This tag sends signals to a satellite up to 6 times a day telling us where the kite is with an accuracy of a few metres. This information is transmitted to a ground station in France, from where it is forwarded to the University of Aberdeen via the RSPB Highlands HQ in Inverness. At the University of Aberdeen, this information is automatically processed and the points are plotted on the google maps you can see when visiting the live blogs.
Now the interesting bit starts…
Because we know where our kites were at specific times, we can access some other databases to find out a whole heap of information about those places, such as the type of habitat the kite was in (e.g., woodland or bog), what the nearest places are (e.g., Loch Ness) and the local weather at that time,. We can also calculate if this bird was in the area it normally hangs out (its “home-range”) or whether it’s gone to explore a new area.
Quickly we end up with a lot of information about where the kites have been and this might help us explain why they were there. This information is just lots and lots of numbers and names - great for computers to analyse, but not very easy for people to make sense of!
That’s where Natural Language Generation comes in. This is a ground breaking computer science technology which can look at all these numbers and names, find patterns in them and then write a blog post about the day-to-day lives of one of Britain’s finest creatures without human help at all! That’s right - a whole story, written in English, automatically by a computer!
So are the kites writing the blogs themselves? Well no, but then again neither are humans. Simply by flying around with a tag on its back, a red kite is allowing a computer to write the story of its life. By following their journeys you can learn lots about these red kites that gradually make their come-back to the countryside, and at the same time be amazed by the computer science technology behind it.
For more details look at:
Kapila Ponnamperuma, Advaith Siddharthan, Cheng Zeng, Chris Mellish and Rene van der Wal. Tag2Blog: Narrative Generation from Satellite Tag Data. Proceedings of the Association for Computational Linguistics (ACL 2013) System Demonstrations, Sofia, Bulgaria.
Advaith Siddharthan, Matthew Green, Kees van Deemter, Chris Mellish and Rene van der Wal. Blogging birds: Generating narratives about reintroduced species to promote public engagement. In Proceedings of the 7th International Natural Language Generation Conference (INLG 2012), Utica, IL.