We investigate the relationship between visual elements and statistical quantities in cities. Although certain city statistics like the presence of trees and graffiti have a natural connection to visual elements, more abstract statistical quantities such as crime rates and housing prices relate to visual content in a less intuitive way. We show that there is a strong connection between visual elements and these statistics and that this relationship is general enough to predict these statistics in new cities. Given a set of street-level images and geo-located samples of a statistic we first identify visual elements in the images that are discriminative of the statistic (e.g. our system determined that rounded windows and doors in Boston are visually discriminative of affluence). We then build a predictor by learning a weight for each of these elements using a robust regression technique. To perform these operations efficiently, we implemented a scalable distributed processing framework that can process a single statistic (10,000 images) 4x faster than previous methods. We tested the performance of our computed predictors on the statistics: theft, affluence, graffiti presence, and tree presence. We found that at least one predictor for every statistic could interpolate that statistic with 67%-81% accuracy. In addition, we found that we can predict statistics in new cities with up to 76% accuracy. We also tested human performance for predicting theft based on images and found that our method outperformed this baseline with 39% higher accuracy. We present two prototype applications that use our predictors to provide estimates of city statistics: a statistic-sensitive wayfinding program capable of routing travelers through or around statistics of interest (e.g. routing a tourist around a high theft area), and a user-assisted tool for automatically finding graffiti in street-level images.




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