Microsoft stops to smell the roses, creates the Shazam of flowers

Cross-pollination with boffins helps those who can't tell a daffodil from a daisy

Botanists will be positively blooming thanks to Microsoft, which has worked with a team of scientists to create a system to help flower-fanciers identify species in a snap.

The Smart Flower Recognition System will help botanists stalk flowers across the world using Microsoft's blossoming library of some 2.6 million floral photographs.

The project came about after random cross-pollination between Microsoft Research Asia chief researcher Yong Rui and botanists at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Rui told the academics Redmond could use image-matching to help the botanists identify the spread of flowers throughout China, albeit with some pruning of its vast image banks.

Microsoft Research Asia senior research program manager Guobin Wu says a 20-layer deep convolutional neural network was cultivated alongside learnable filters to identify slight variations between flowers.

"During the forward pass, each filter is convolved across the width and height of the input volume, computing the dot product between the entries of the filter and the input," Wu says.

Some 800,000 flower snaps were planted into the UC Berkely and open source Caffe deep learning network, leading to an impressive 90 percent species identification accuracy rate.

The Chinese flower fancies are positively fragrant.

“The flower-recognition engine enables domain experts to acquire plant distribution in China in an efficient way," Academy assistant director Zheping Xu says.

“Not only that, this engine can help ordinary people who have a strong interest in flowers to gain more knowledge.”

The project's seeds are expected to catch wind and disperse into other botanical experiments to assist with rapid identification using image banks

"Developers will create applications based on the flower-recognition engine, and then botanists can conduct their research, parents can appear infallible to their kids, and everyone can appreciate flowers on an even deeper level," Wu says. ®

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