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What makes Paris look like Paris? (cmu.edu)
86 points by showerst on Aug 13, 2012 | hide | past | favorite | 18 comments

Hmmm, yup, that's definately a hard problem. I live in Paris (9 years!), and I still couldn't get a 100% score (91% if anyone is interested)

In terms of architectural style, Paris has got to be one of the most unified cities in the world, and even so there is a wide range of architecture possible, ranging from the classical Haussmanian apartment buildings, to Le Corbusier inspired art-deco. Whilst some of those styles are unique to Paris (the Haussmanian apartments in particular), many are fairly standard the world over, which means that unless you can see the street signs / parking metres / hous numbers / street lamps etc that are all uniquely parisian, you aren't going to be able to tell where a photo was taken. Still, it will be interesting to see if their software manages to pick up on things that I don't: maybe the width of sidewalks, or the hight of the first floor of an apartment building, or somthing along those lines can be used to distinguish cities, but I don't pay enough attention to see it.

91% is pretty respectable for that test at the bottom, among a few clearly distinguishable photos, I got some generic photos of windows and parks, how can I tell if they're in Paris or not?? Edit: the 3rd picture shows pitch black for me.

I got 63%, I despaired at the end but I wouldn't have gone above 70% in any case (only went twice to Paris).

Edit2: they're not random? For example, for the 16th, 17th, 18th or 20th pictures, I can't make out if they're in Paris or not.

16 yes - street lamp is classic Paris. 17 too dark to be sure, I'd guess no 18 yes, architectural style plus street house numbers / street lamp 20 hard to be sure, I'd probably say no, because the balcony railing is unusual for Paris

In architecture - and humanities in general - you often see statements like "Le Corbusier is influenced by X architect" or "Frank Lloyd Wright influenced architects such as Y and Z."

It would be interesting to see architectural or art history described using image recognition. It might lead to completely different classifications and also reveal influences that are different from the ones described by scholars.

Born and lived in Paris 23 years. Score 90% on the test.

Paris is a mish mash of styles that was pushed into the heavily predefined "Haussman" style which too many idiotic Parisians try to preserve. There are specific cues you can look for: building numbers, park meters, road signs, street lights, trees, post boxes, metro entrances, intersection styles, colors, window styles, roof styles, cars, doorways, construction, trash cans, lighting, street lamps, even the style of graffitis depending on the era.

I'm actually surprised I managed to get such a high score, but I think this test is skewed by having a default answer. I feel like a great majority of the photos presented are from Paris, too. And that seems like poor methodology since you can discover a certain coherence from the quantity.

I've been living outside of Paris for the last 3 years and the more I see images of it, the more I realize why foreigners think it's so special. It's just so different from anything else out there.

That said, I see almost as much conformity and repetition in Paris as I do in the cloned strip malls of suburban America.

I thought it was a city that got more of "A pattern language" right and that is why people feel good there.

Born and lived in Paris 28 years and score 97% on the test ;-) .

The test is questionable. I've never been to Paris, haven't seen many pictures of it, except for Eiffel tower. I only looked at text found on the pictures (i.e. "Public transportation of Barcelona" ;) and some other clues. With this simple logic reasoning, I got 81%. If you compare this with guys living in Paris who report 90% here, it does not make much sense.

Yeah they should have removed the texts, but as a long time parisian I can recognise Paris with only a gutter or a window frame, it would have made the test more meaningfull.

Definitely very telling when you see Czech or other very obviously non-French languages.

Fascinating. I wonder if this can be applied to sounds as well ? What makes it more interesting with sound is we can "time travel" so to speak, and sample across hundreds of years of music where as with imagery, you're just stuck with what Google streetview can show right now..

Work on music (not necessary sounds) is carried out by the Music Genome Project (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Music_Genome_Project). It's the engine behind Pandora. There's an incomplete list of attributes used in this classification here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Music_Genome_Project_at....

They still use manpower to classify all those tracks which makes it very hard to scale.


I'm French and lived in Paris since 12 years (and 13 years in the suburb before that) and made... 95% percent! (well I think it helps to read French). Anyway it's interesting, even for a French. So thanks.

Gonna try the test next, but I think I answered this very question a while ago ( http://blog.rizzif.com/2012/07/10/parisian-profile/ ). Intriguing topic though!

As far as I can tell, lots of the pictures from Paris look like they have been shot in the 5th, 4th districts and around (Quartier latin, Marais, Notre-Dame, etc.).

EDIT: Just finished the test. 86%.

Is the second picture at the top Paris? I'm would have said no, but I really can't be sure now.

Yes it is Paris. You can tell be the street sign to the left on the fence.

Definitely yes. You can tell by the shape of the street sign. To my mind it's somewhere in the south of Paris. Maybe near the Parc Montsouris but I'm not sure.

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