Seven months of WebCamWatcher bot

Aleksey Tikhonov
Nov 19, 2019 · 4 min read

Seven months ago, I used a pretrained neural network to detect the appearance of animals on online cameras in different nature parks, and send notifications to the @WebCamWatcher telegram channel. Now I’ll tell you a little about what happened with this venture:

  • The channel gained a small but constant audience, which has organized an additional @WCWfriends chat room to discuss photos caught by the “bot.”
  • I added several cameras from African national parks, which enlivened the set of pictures.
  • Dima Kryukov asked me to make a similar thing for cameras on Russian rivers in order to detect boats passing by. So the channel @wcw_boats appeared, although there are still almost no viewers.
  • People also came in with the idea of ​​using a similar design to search for people ala Lisa-alert, but the idea did not go beyond the conversation.
  • I tried several different pre-trained neural networks and settled with YOLOv3, which works well, although from time to time it confuses cows with birds and turtles with bears, but this is not so important.
  • In order to connect new camera options and manage all sorts of settings, I rewrote the code a couple of times, until, finally, I implemented a flexible system based on a config and a set of plugins.
  • Hosting this whole thing on a home machine with a not very stable load turned out badly, so the bot suffered from periodic downtime. Then I met Gaiar Baimuratov, who is also interested in creating photo traps for birds, and Gaiar suggested he could host the whole thing. As a result, Gaiar added a docker kit to my system, and yesterday the bot moved to the new home.


Selected shots:

Altsoph’s blog

Random notes on people and machines