Magnifying Glass / Bug ID Expert System

Thu 20 September 2007

I love this idea: a magnifying glass with a built-in expert system for identifying bugs. That's a nice combination of form and function. My thrill was clouded upon reading the that it only identifies "more than 50 real live bugs;" if you're going to do the hardware and firmware for this, it ought to be trivial to burn in the taxonomy for "thousands of real live bugs!" See, for instance, the remarkable \<a href="http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/redirect%3fpath%3dASIN/B0001NE2AK%26link_code%3das2%26camp%3d1789%26tag%3dthinkinginnet-20%26creative%3d9325"" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">20Q orb.

Once upon a time, I fielded an expert system for identifying seabirds. One of the big problems was that interacting with the display necessarily meant taking your eyes off the seabird and, if you weren't experienced, that often meant considerable time before re-acquiring. But if you were an experienced birder, you didn't need the expert system. Plus display and battery life on the available portable computers of the time were problematic.

When the Palm came out, I investigated developing expert systems for them: the target niches were going to be birds, plants, and mushrooms. Too little market confidence and too few resources kept that one at the prototype stage.

Sadly, that "more than 50" line and the lack of "I don't know" button makes me wager that instead of having a real expert system, with inferencing and reasoning under uncertainty, the software is just a simple tree. Which, if I'm right, is pathetic -- all of that work to develop a device and then to cripple it, for lack of a couple of hundred lines of code.

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