Soon, Google Maps may be able to identify cities by just scanning images of their buildings. That's right, researchers at "Carnegie Mellon University and INRIA/Ecole Normale Superieure in Paris have designed software that combs over thousands of Google street view images and then learns to tell the difference based on, say, the number of fire escapes (Hello, NYC)." Continue reading for a video and more information.
The project can be looked at as the visual cousin to data mining, the process where machines pick over disparate data and pull out patterns useful to humans. But in this case, the data comes in the form of images, something we've seen less of. The software could have applications in determining the flow of architectural influence across an area, and could be scaled up or down to identify a continent, or even a certain neighborhood.