Software knows what makes Paris look like Paris


It is a Hollywood cliché that every window in the French capital has a grand view of the Eiffel Tower, but even seemingly nondescript streets have uniquely Parisian architectural features that separate them from the likes of Londonor Milan.

Now, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and INRIA in Paris have written software capable of spotting these small details. It could help animation-makers avoid the Eiffel Tower cliché by crafting virtual cities with a distinct visual DNA – at present, animators like Pixar spend weeks documenting a location, as they did for Paris in the film Ratatouille.

The researchers selected 12 cities from across the globe and analysed 10,000 Google Street Viewimages from each. Their algorithm searches for visual features that appear often in one location but infrequently elsewhere – a common paving slab is no good for locating an image, but neither is the Eiffel Tower as it rarely appears in a scene (despite what Hollywood might think).

It turns out that ornate windows and balconies, along with unique blue-and-green street signs, characterize Paris, while columned doorways, Victorian windows and cast-iron railings mark London out from the rest. In the US, long staircases and bay windows mean San Francisco, and gas-powered street lamps are scattered throughout Boston. The team will present their work at the SIGGRAPH graphics conference in Los Angeles in August.

Blowfish12@2012 Author: Sudharsun. P. R.


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