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### UCSC’s Innovative AI Technology Enhances Beach Safety

UC Santa Cruz researchers are developing a new cutting-edge technology, which aims to help lifeguar…

It all began with a profound fascination with artificial intelligence, the immense sea, and a tragic event. The creation of a groundbreaking AI system aimed at identifying riptides originated with UCSC Professor Alex Pang in 2015 while he was on a windsurfing expedition with friends. The heartbreaking loss of two UC Santa Cruz students to drowning further ignited his creativity.

Reminiscing about the unfortunate occurrence, Pang recollected, “During that period, we also lost two UCSD students to rip currents. This served as the catalyst to prioritize and intensify our efforts in this area.” Committed to tackling this hidden danger, Pang and his team set out on a quest to devise a tool capable of detecting the perilous undertow lurking beneath the ocean’s surface.

Riptides, known for their swift currents, present a significant hazard to swimmers due to their deceptive nature. Pang stressed, “Our aim is to avert individuals from encountering hazardous situations by heightening their awareness of these occurrences.” By employing machine learning methodologies, the system is trained to identify distinctive signs of riptides from video footage obtained by cameras monitoring wave patterns, which are then scrutinized using advanced algorithms.

Explaining the detection procedure, Pang elucidated, “The algorithm pinpoints the riptide locations, visually depicted by highlighted red boxes.” One of the primary objectives is to aid lifeguards and emergency responders in ensuring the safety of beach enthusiasts.

Concurrently, engineering student Fahim Kham is devoted to converting this technology into a user-friendly mobile application that can be accessed offline. Expressing his enthusiasm for utilizing computer science for projects that have a positive social impact, Kham remarked, “I am constantly intrigued by the application of technology in real-world scenarios that offer tangible advantages.” He highlighted the necessity for additional data to enhance the system’s precision and user-friendliness.

Moreover, engineers envision the broader utilization of AI in areas such as coastal management, combatting coastal erosion, and addressing the challenges of rising sea levels. Nonetheless, their primary focus remains on the pivotal objective of saving lives through this innovative solution.

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. — It all began with a fervor for artificial intelligence, the ocean, and a poignant loss.

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Last modified: February 18, 2024
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