Just How Accurately Can This Japanese AI App Identify the Flowers During Our Social Distancing Walks?

Nationwide Entertainment Stayhome 2020.05.19
Stop, smell, and identify the flowers! This cool Japanese app claims to be an excellent companion for solo walks. But how good is it?
We live in the future. At least, that's what it seemed like when Twitter user @tkmc announced the release of his new free app for the iPhone, called Hananona (ハナノナ). Outside of the Twitter world, @tkmc goes by Teruhisa Kamachi, a part of the STAIR Lab (Software Technology and Artificial Intelligence Research Laboratory) at the Chiba Institute of Technology. His new app uses a combination of AI and AR (augmented reality) technology to accurately label and display the names of real flowers viewed through the screen of your phone. 
With so many people avoiding crowds and instead finding solace in solo walks near home, it's no huge surprise that the Twitter announcement earned more than 60,000 likes and 35,000 responses. According to the developers, the goal of the app was to educate children about the things growing around them, perfect for all the kids of Japan who have been home from school for months now.
Days after its release, the Hananona app even made its way to #2 on the app store's free app ranking, just behind Zoom and ahead of the My Number app connected to Japan's coronavirus relief payments. So I had to try it out! The iPhone app is available here, in English or Japanese. If you want to try it out with any other device, there's this page on the official STAIR Lab website that identifies flowers, without the AR features. They say it can identify 770 different kinds of flowers, but how good is it?

Testing The App's 2 Modes

① Search Mode
In search mode, the app will actively identify any flowers on the screen in real-time, as you move. Since the app isn't always 100% accurate, you can push the accuracy slider to the left or right to filter for more guesses, or fewer sure identifications.
  • You can see that the flower names appear on screen, labeling the plants seen through the viewfinder, and an accuracy percentage shows up underneath.

    Unfortunately, if you're at all familiar with flowers, you'll see that... well, the app isn't always as correct as it says. Despite the "100% accurate identification" of that "Joe-Pye weed," the flowers pictured are quite clearly pansies.
  • But not all is lost! Despite the app insisting that the pansies aren't pansies, its "96% accurate" guess of leucanthemum paludosum (AKA creeping daisies) is quite correct!
② Shooting Mode
To share your findings with friends, you can switch to shooting mode, and capture some nice snapshots that are already captioned for your appreciation.
  • Just... don't try to use it on pansies.
So far the accuracy seems to be about 50/50, but perhaps pansies are the app's weak point!? Whether it works perfectly or not, it's certainly a fun app to play around with outside, as you take a walk around the block! Take a photo share with friends, or bring it with you on your next trip to Japan, whenever that might be. And don't forget to share your snapshots with the Japankuru team, too, on our twitter, instagram, and facebook!
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