PlantSnap

Local resident Eric Ralls created a new app called PlantSnap that identifies plants through cell phone pictures. (Courtesy photo) 

 

Have you ever been on a hike and seen an interesting flower, and thought to yourself, “I wonder what type of plant that is?”

Well now there’s an app for that. 

PlantSnap is a mobile app that identifies plants through image recognition technology. Users simply take a picture of whatever plant or flower they would like to identify, and the application sifts through over 100,000 catalogued species to make a correct identification. 

The app will be launched at the beginning of June (it will be on sale for $2.99 at the Apple App Store).

Telluride resident Eric Ralls the company’s founder, said the idea came to him a few years ago when he wanted to look up a plant he had seen in his friend’s backyard.  

“I started doing a Google search, typed in a description of it, and I couldn’t figure out what this plant was,” Ralls said. “Then one of my friends said, ‘Is there an app for that?’ I looked around and there wasn’t an app for that and that was my eureka moment.”

Ralls realized modern technology could offer a solution.

By combining image recognition software and an algorithm that learns how to recognize different plants through an image library containing hundreds of pictures of each species, the curious now will be able to satisfy their appetite for plant knowledge. 

Ralls said he has hired people from all over the world to feed the algorithm images for the database.

While Ralls had the spark of app inspiration in 2012, he didn’t start seriously developing the product until April 2016. That November, he launched a Kickstarter campaign, raising $28,733 from 1,947 backers. 

Seeing how successful the Kickstarter campaign was, Ralls said it gave him reassurance that other people liked the idea, too.

He started another fundraising campaign in March, this time on Wefunder, a website where investors can fund startup projects. The PlantSnap campaign has raised over $120,000 as of press time. 

One investor, Dan Johnson, said he has high hopes for the app’s success. 

“There are about seven billion people in the world and many of us enjoy plants, so what Eric wants to do is expand this worldwide and I think there will be a huge market for the product,” Johnson said. 

Johnson admittedly isn’t a big app user, but said this one struck an interest. 

“I don’t use apps, hardly at all,” he said. “I’m from a different generation, but I did recognize the fact that this is something I would actually try to use. That is why I am an investor.”

Johnson remembers his own childhood of identifying plants with his mother, who was an Audubon society leader in southern Oregon. 

“When I was 10 years old she used to take me and all my buddies and we would go on all these nature walks and hunt for flowers and plants and had a little book from the Audubon society and she would point out the plants,” he said. 

Johnson added: “It is so cool to be able to wonder what the name of the plant is and snap it and bring it up in a couple of seconds. It’s very intriguing and very useful.”

Apart from the ability to identify plants, the app also provides general information about different species as well as gardening tips. 

Upon the app’s launch, it will be able to identify plants in North America and Europe; Ralls said more regions of the world will be added throughout the summer, with over 250,000 species indexed by the end of the year. 

Ralls, who is a self-professed science nerd, said he has always had a love for technology. PlantSnap is just the latest of a series of projects he has undertaken. 

In 2014, Ralls sold a website he had created about outer space called redOrbit. He also started another website — this time all about planet Earth — fittingly titled Earth.com.