Researchers used a vast library of Google Street View images to find the visual features that define some of our greatest cities.
What gives your city its unique visual character?
<p> This may sound like a pretty subjective question, but researchers from Carnegie Mellon and a Parisian university are making it less so. They’ve <a href="http://www.kurzweilai.net/what-makes-paris-look-like-paris-cmu-software-uncovers-stylistic-core">developed visual data mining software</a> to detect which features define a city’s look.</p><p> For Paris, the team concluded that cast-iron balconies, windows with railings, special Parisian lampposts, and certain styles of doors make up the city's unique identity.</p><p> For New York it's the fire escapes, and bay windows defined San Francisco, though the software had trouble picking up on elements in U.S. cities because of a relative lack of stylistic coherence compared to European cities. Look at more of the findings <a href="http://graphics.cs.cmu.edu/projects/whatMakesParis/">here</a>.</p><p> The software surveyed more than 250 million visual characteristics from 40,000 Google Street View images of Paris, London, New York, Barcelona, and eight other cities.</p><p> Then a machine learning program analyzed the images and determined which details differentiated the images from ones taken in other cities. The process requires enough computing to keep 150 processors working overnight.</p><p> The team of researchers from <a href="http://www.cmu.edu/index.shtml">CMU</a> and <a href="http://www.di.ens.fr/willow/">INRIA/Ecole Normale Superiéure</a> will present their findings on August 9 at the <a href="http://s2012.siggraph.org/">SIGGRAPH 2012</a> convention at the <a href="http://www.lacclink.com/lacclink/default.aspx">Los Angeles Convention Center</a> in Downtown Los Angeles.</p><p> So what features define your city? Will the new system help cities find their identity, or is it just telling us what we already know?</p><p> <em>Photo via <a href="http://graphics.cs.cmu.edu/projects/whatMakesParis/">CMU</a></em></p>
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