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New Smart Binoculars Are a Game-Changer for Birdwatching

Swarovski's AX Visio smart binoculars, designed by renowned industrial designer Marc Newson, combine style with functionality, featuring AI bird recognition and a built-in camera for capturing high-resolution images

AX Visio Smart Binoculars

Birdwatching has come a long way since the days of lugging around bulky field guides and point-and-shoot cameras. Thanks to recent advances in AI and computer vision technology, Austrian optics company Swarovski Optik has developed a pair of smart binoculars that can identify birds and wildlife instantly with the snap of a button.

Dubbed the AX Visio, these futuristic binos feature an integrated neural processing unit that can recognize over 9,000 species of birds and animals. When a bird comes into view, simply press the button and a red targeting circle surrounds the object while the binoculars analyze the image. Within about 5 seconds, the name of the species pops up right on the display screen. An onboard GPS and database helps the binoculars identify location-specific wildlife based on where you are in the world.

binoculars

While 5 seconds may not be quick enough for fast-moving birds, it’s an impressive feat of technology nonetheless. As someone who grew up lugging around cumbersome field guides and cameras, I never imagined a pair of binoculars could identify species at the touch of a button. The AX Visio almost seems too good to be true.

But these smart binoculars aren’t just good at identifying wildlife. They also have a built-in camera that can capture high-resolution images and instantly upload them to your smartphone via the Swarovski app. A unique “shared discoveries” feature lets you drop virtual pins on the map to show fellow birders where you spotted a rare or interesting bird. No more vague descriptions like “in the tall oak tree near the big rock.” Now you can provide precise locations to help others document new species.

Designed by renowned industrial designer Marc Newson, known for luxury furniture pieces like the Lockheed Lounge chair that sold for $3.1 million, the AX Visio binoculars are as stylish as they are smart. Sleek green and black barrels conceal the advanced tech inside a traditional binocular frame. Compared to early prototypes and competitors that look overly techy, Newson’s minimalist design fits right in with Swarovski’s reputation for finely crafted optics.

But all these cutting-edge features come at a hefty price – the AX Visio start at a whopping $5,000. That’s enough to make even the most devoted birders eyes water. However, Swarovski includes a few extras to take the sting off the cost like a rechargeable battery, protective eyepiece covers, charging cables, and an adjustable strap. Plus the built-in software receives regular over-the-air updates to expand the recognition database just like a smartphone.

It remains to be seen whether the AX Visio usher in a new era of smart binoculars or end up as an overpriced novelty. As impressive as the technology is, some birding traditionalists may chafe at the idea of automating a hobby that has always relied on patience, skill and intimately knowing your field guide. Scrolling through pages to identify a rare species is deeply satisfying. Will having a computer do it for you take some fun out of birding?

Still, as technology evolves, so do hobbies. Binoculars like the AX Visio remove a few pain points from birding while enhancing the experience in other ways. Novices can now identify birds correctly on their first try instead of mistakenly adding sightings to their life list. And capturing high-quality photos is easier than ever. While the magic of nature can never be replicated by tech, Swarovski’s smart binoculars open birding to new audiences and novel possibilities. The future brings change to every pursuit. Embracing innovation often expands possibilities rather than limits them.

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