Dodgy neighbourhoods: How to find safe streets

RESEARCHERS at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed an algorithm that uses visual cues in photos to predict how safe people perceive different streets to be. It is easy to see how a site that presented this information could be useful to business travellers. It can be unsettling to find that you have wandered into a dodgy neighbourhood in an unfamiliar city. But is that what’s really happening here? Streetsblog has more:The MIT team says their algorithm is a reliable mimic of how humans perceive visual cues in urban environments. Using a 1 to 10 scale, 84 percent of the time it can successfully predict whether real people will rate a street on the low end (less than 4.5) or the high end (more than 5.5). The factors incorporated by the algorithm are not public at this time.The perception of “safety” that Streetscore approximates is defined vaguely, since the survey doesn’t explicitly distinguish between traffic violence and violent crime.The interest, of course, lies in that bolded phrase. The MIT algorithm does indeed do well at predicting how people will perceive the safety of a given street. But are those perceptions accurate? As it turns out, they are. In their paper, the researchers establish a connection between perceived safety and homicides. “People are not stupid,” says Cesar Hidalgo, one of the authors. “They are very good at …

Link to article: www.economist.com/blogs/gulliver/2014/08/dodgy-neighbourhoods?fsrc=rss

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