Filled with tables, chairs and computers, Eamonn Keogh's lab at the University of California, Riverside Bourns College of Engineering looks like many computer science labs.
That changes when the closet door is opened. Inside are a couple dozen shoebox-size plastic containers, each filled with up to 100 insects and connected to a laser that shines through the container to an optical sensor on the opposite side. When the insect passes through the laser, the sensor collects a short snippet of the sound it makes.
The contraptions, which Keogh and his collaborators and students designed and built, are a step toward merging computer science and entomology - a field Keogh has dubbed computational entomology. His goal is to create an inexpensive way to count and classify insects to help solve pressing global problems, such as insect damage to food crops and insect-borne diseases, such as malaria.
With that in mind, he has launched an insect classification contest that uses a computer program he developed that takes two insect audio snippets and calculates their similarity. Keogh is making the program available for free to people in hopes that they can improve the accuracy of the program.
Yanping Chen, one of Keogh's Ph.D. students, has figured out a way to classify the flying insects with about 80 percent accuracy, but the goal is 99 percent or better accuracy.
"We have no idea what is possible," Keogh said. "It's possible the first person could improve it to 100 percent. I doubt it. But it's possible."
As a contest incentive, Keogh is offering a $500 prize and an engraved trophy for the winner. Keogh's insect work is supported by Vodafone America, but the prize money is coming from his own pocket.
Those interested in taking part in the contest can visit: http://www.cs.ucr.edu/~eamonn/CE/UCR_Insect_Contest.pdf
. For more information, potential contestants can send an e-mail to: UCR.email@example.com
To read remainder of press release and watch video featuring Keogh visit: http://ucrtoday.ucr.edu/7656