Ever see a flower on a hike and think "That is beautiful, what's it called?" Well there's an app for that now. It's called PlantSnap. You can take a picture of a plant or flower and the app can tell you its name.
Colorado inventor Eric Ralls came up with the idea during a barbeque in Telluride. He noticed a beautiful flower in the yard and asked his friend what it was. She didn't know.
Five years later, PlantSnap appeared in the App Store.
By mid-August, it will be able to identify 100,000 different species of plants.
There's a right and a wrong way to do this though. PlantSnap doesn't need a picture of the whole plant; just a close-up of the leaf or flower will do.
The app uses artificial intelligence to identify plants -- using what's called "deep learning". Four different companies around the world work to improve the database. Users help too. If the app gets it wrong, you can tell it what you think the plant is. That gets applied to the algorithm, and the app continues learning.
"It's been a huge investment of time and sweat and obviously money," Ralls says, "I want to bring people back to nature....If I can get people to focus a little on the beauty and wonder of planet earth, maybe we can save it."
PlantSnap isn't the only plant-identifying app on the market though. PlantNet, GreenSnap, GardenAnswers, and "What's that flower?" are all competitors. Reviews for all are mostly favorable.
11Alive's sister station in Denver tested the apps out in our backyard on three different plants. Here's what we found:
"PlantNet" got two out of three correct.
"GreenSnap" wasn't even an identifier like it advertised; it works more like a social media platform to plant photo sharing.
"GardenAnswers" had a different method. You take a photo of the plant and then compare it to similar photos from other users. If you think the photos match, then it confirms the name of your plant. It got a solid three-for-three.
"What's that flower?" just had a collection of photos to compare your plant to. You can't take a photo and send it through a database.
Lastly, "PlantSnap" went three-for-three.
Ralls says the app could be able to identify every plant species on Earth (at least the ones we know about) by this December.
© 2017 KUSA-TV