Bird-watching isn't renowned for its high-tech accessories, but some new smart binoculars at CES 2024 are looking to bring the peaceful pastime into the 21st century with a powerful new feature – automatic bird identification.
The Swarovski Optik AX Visio binoculars ($4,799 / £3,820, or around AU$7,260) aren't exactly cheap – as you might expect from the company better-known for its pricey jewelry – but they pack in some AI-powered intelligence that'll help tell you which bird you're looking at from its database of 9,000 species.
This is all thanks to a Neural Processing Unit (NPU) that's built into the 10 x 32 binoculars, which have a 10x magnification. Press a button on the side and you'll see a red circle appear around your subject, much like a camera's autofocus – it'll then tell you the name of the bird species underneath, like the Cedar Waxwing example below.
Much like the Canon PowerShot Zoom monocular, the AX Visios are also a digital camera. The tech specs on the Swarovski product page reveal that the binoculars have a 13MP sensor that can shoot 1080p videos and store these on its 8GB of internal storage.
These clips can then be fired off to an Android or iOS smartphone thanks to the Swarovski Optik Outdoor App. It isn't yet clear how big the sensor inside the AX Visios is, so we wouldn't expect them to compete with the best compact cameras, but it's a handy bonus to have alongside those bird identification skills.
While these smart binoculars are mainly aimed at bird-watchers, a dial on the AX Visios also lets you spot and recognize other mammals, if you're out on safari. And with a 15-hour battery life (or two hours if you're using them intensely), they should last long enough for you to spot some big game animals.
Fresh pair of eyes
It's now well over decade since Sony launched the first digital binoculars that could capture video and stills – and the Swarovski Optik AX Visios follow in their tech tradition with their new bird-identification powers.
These binoculars are a bit too pricey to make them birthday present material for the average bird-watcher, and they're also not exactly lightweight at 1,090g. But the idea is interesting one that combines the video-taking powers of digital binoculars with the latest intelligent subject-recognition of the best mirrorless cameras (in theory, at least).
Many birding purists will no doubt prefer to stick to traditional binoculars and use their knowledge to pinpoint the species of bird they're looking at. But we'll be looking to track down the Swarovski Optik AX Visios on the CES 2024 show floor to see if they work as well as advertised.
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Mark is TechRadar's Senior news editor. Having worked in tech journalism for a ludicrous 17 years, Mark is now attempting to break the world record for the number of camera bags hoarded by one person. He was previously Cameras Editor at both TechRadar and Trusted Reviews, Acting editor on Stuff.tv, as well as Features editor and Reviews editor on Stuff magazine. As a freelancer, he's contributed to titles including The Sunday Times, FourFourTwo and Arena. And in a former life, he also won The Daily Telegraph's Young Sportswriter of the Year. But that was before he discovered the strange joys of getting up at 4am for a photo shoot in London's Square Mile.