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Computer Aided Ethology | Michael Spratt

Computer Aided Ethology

Computer Aided Ethology

Or the ethology of ethologists
How do humans perceive and analyze animal behavior?
Can computers simulate these functions?

Computer-aided ethology aims to simulate human ethological functions or visual observations and  cognitive analysis.  We are all etholgist we all observe animals,  at least our own species Homo sapient




Computer-aided ethology aims to simulate human ethological functions or visual observations and cognitive analysis. As a pH.D. project , I captured the (X, Y) coordinate* and Surface Area, of 4 mice, during 4 hours, (to a data file), every 40 millisecond (25 data points (images) / second). Each, of the four motion files contains approx. 360,000 records! The problem, as I’ve defined it, is divided into 3 principle components, Input, Data and Behavior Analysis. Input -How to capture the data. Data – How to convert the data to motion and then to behavior Behavior – How to create “knowledge” about behavior, which also entails measuring, evaluating and understanding.





This is an image of just one basin with the mouse, the water and the food distributor.


Fundamental Differences : From a machine vision perspective the image contains pixels with gray levels. We recognize water, food, sides, floor, … We can defined objects at fixed coordinates and track objects which contrast from other objects. However, it is difficult to imply impression, i.e. “near the food”. The subject (i.e. mouse) surely sees all this from another perspective. (* Note : the X,Y coordinate is the location of the berry center of the animal)





Graphical representation of Basin and Motion Data How to Present Data? This diagram of motion data provides certain information but eliminates sequence and time. Replacing and eliminating data could provide more information for humans but limit a computer’s potential to resolve problems. This illustrates the mouse’s activity and indicates area of interest, to the mouse!



Once behavior is assigned by a computer, how can humans verify the machines evaluation? Display and control programs can aid humans verify computer generated behavior. The data can be displayed and manipulated (indexed, sorted, graphed, …) in order to obtain and verify information. This is a graphic representation of the basin, it’s landmarks, the mouse’s position and calculated motion data (i.e. speed, distance, etc.). I developed the program, SUIVI, in order to explain and demonstrate “The Problem” and to aid verify certain results. The problems encountered in this example are similar to those found in many HUMAN AND ANIMAL motion / behavior studies. Basically, there are two types of problem, specific (i.e. mice) and general (intelligent machine vision). Although we’re using mice in this example, we are interested in the process and not the subject.We can adapt the technology to: – animal tracking – autonomic robots – consumer browsing and shopping behavior studies – sports and athletic performance aids – security application




The software must be very intuitive, adaptive, perform self-evaluations and optimize their functioning. The General Problem ! What is needed…..1) The “Bio logic” problem : How do Animals (i.e. man) see animals and extrapolate behavior (i.e. information)? What are the formulas to convert data to behavior? Can there be an optimized model (“One size fits all” formulas?) How to do it….. 2) The technical problems : Can computers help us solve this? What hardware and processes How to develop and validate an intuitive user interface?!

Foxpro program


Data Interpretation Can programs be trusted to find behavior in all the data? What does the data for sleep or a jump look like? Or….? Can the same programs find the same behaviors in other mice? What other behaviors can humans or computers find, or not find? No or Little Motion (dead, sleeping, resting?) – is easy to fine in a data set. Data with little change over time can indicate a behavior. ie. Death, Sleep or Rest depending only upon duration, low change or no-motion! Experiences has shown that even sleeping animals “move” when seen through machine vision systems. Jump




Conclusion There are many who are working to apply machine vision and automatic behavior analysis tools. To see links to other sites click here : Ethology Links We have a long way to go. Most animals have developed the ability to observe other animals and obtain behavior. For example, eat or be eaten behavior can be initiated by a sequences of visual stimuli combined with learned responses. But, how can machines find behavior in motion data? Fortunately animal have more optimized computing power and developed responses. Innovative techniques are required to develop software which is modular with long-term possibilities and can clearly communicate data analysis results.