Published on 12th October, this map represents every building in the US by a black speck, reflecting the built legacy of the United States.
The dataset was publicly released by Microsoft early this year. The company’s computer engineers trained a neural network to analyze satellite imagery and then to trace the shapes of buildings across the country.
The map reveals patterns in the arrangements of buildings. Traditional road maps highlight streets and highways; here they show up as a linear absence. As a result, “… you can read history in the transition from curving, paved-over cow paths in old downtowns to suburban sprawl; you can detect signals of wealth and poverty, sometimes almost next door to each other.”.
In the south of New Orleans, it’s possible to notice the layout of buildings along a narrow spit of land on either side of a Louisiana bayou, which may reflect the imprint of the region’s history under France: “… “long lot” development, which stretched skinny holdings laterally away from important waterways. Geography shapes settlement, but culture does, as well.”
By comparing 1.6 million pairs of photos taken seven years apart, researchers from MIT’s Collective Learning Group now used a new computer vision system to quantify the physical improvement or deterioration of neighborhoods in five American cities, in an attempt to identify factors that predict urban change.
The project is called Streetchange. An article introducing the article can be found here.
Reference:Naik, Nikhil, Scott Duke Kominers, Ramesh Raskar, Edward L. Glaeser, and César A. Hidalgo. “Computer Vision Uncovers Predictors of Physical Urban Change.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 114, no. 29 (July 18, 2017): 7571–76. doi:10.1073/pnas.1619003114.