Birdwatching in the 21st Century

A few years ago we profiled Cal engineering professor and robot artist Ken Goldberg, the brains behind a fascinating series of conceptual art projects that can be remote-controlled from the Web. Among them: the Telegarden, which allowed Internet users to control a robot arm that planted and watered seeds, Legal Tender, in which you could destroy $100 bills, and Ouija 2000, in which you could help predict the future.

Now Goldberg and his former student Dezhen Song have a new online project, and this time the name of the game is birdwatching. In CONE, or the Collaborative Observatory for Natural Environments, you remote control a camera mounted on the back deck of Craigslist founder Craig Newmark’s San Francisco home, overlooking the Sutro Forest. You take pictures of wild birds, then you try to name them. Cute, huh?

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