Urban visual intelligence: Uncovering hidden city profiles with street view images

A longstanding line of research in urban studies explores how cities can be understood through their appearance. However, what remains unclear is to what extent urban dwellers? everyday life can be explained by the visual clues of the urban environment. In this paper, the authors address this question by applying a computer vision model to 27 million street view images across 80 counties in the United States. Then, the authors use the spatial distribution of notable urban features identified through the street view images, such as street furniture, sidewalks, building façades, and vegetation, to predict the socioeconomic profiles of their immediate neighborhood. The authors' results show that these urban features alone can account for up to 83% of the variance in people's travel behavior, 62% in poverty status, 64% in crime, and 68% in health behaviors. The results outperform models based on points of interest (POI), population, and other demographic data alone. Moreover, incorporating urban features captured from street view images can improve the explanatory power of these other methods by 5% to 25%. The authors propose "urban visual intelligence" as a process to uncover hidden city profiles, infer, and synthesize urban information with computer vision and street view images. This study serves as a foundation for future urban research interested in this process and understanding the role of visual aspects of the city.


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  • Accession Number: 01887052
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Jul 5 2023 4:38PM