Google’s sister company helps fight mozzies with AI

Google’s sister company Verily is helping Singapore as it experiments with using male Wolbachia-carrying mosquitoes to control the insect’s population. 


Artificial intelligence is now being deployed to help curb the breeding of Aedes mosquitoes, which are responsible for the spread of such diseases as dengue, yellow fever and the Zika virus.

Verily, a life sciences and healthcare company under Google’s parent company Alphabet, has partnered with Singapore’s National Environment Agency to bring its mosquito sex-sorting technology to the city-state. Verily announce the move, which will mark its entry into Southeast Asia, in a blog post Tuesday. The technology will be employed in the second phase of the agency’s field study called “Project Wolbachia — Singapore.”

This sex-sorting technology is developed under the Debug Project funded by Verily and uses a computer vision algorithm and artificial intelligence to cut down on the time spent separating male and female mosquitoes manually.

As part of the project, it was used to release over a million Wolbachia-infected male Aedes mosquitoes in communities in far north Queensland in Australia in April where Verily is partners with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), the University of Queensland and James Cook University. These infected mosquitoes are sterile and do not bite or spread diseases but when they mate with female mosquitoes, the resulting eggs will fail to hatch, hence helping to suppress the population of the mosquitoes.

Verily will also introduce a newly developed automated release system contained within a cart designed to improve and give precise control over the dispense and distribution of these mosquitoes into Singapore’s high-density and high-rise urban landscapes where many Aedes mosquitoes breed.

This is expected to increase the likelihood of such mosquitoes mating with females Aedes mosquitoes which will then lay sterile eggs in the city-state’s high-rise residential blocks, according to NEA.

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