Training Computers to See the Built Environment Related to Physical Activity: Detection of Microscale Walkability Features Using Computer Vision

Marc A. Adams, Christine B. Phillips, Akshar Patel, Ariane Middel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The study purpose was to train and validate a deep learning approach to detect microscale streetscape features related to pedestrian physical activity. This work innovates by combining computer vision techniques with Google Street View (GSV) images to overcome impediments to conducting audits (e.g., time, safety, and expert labor cost). The EfficientNETB5 architecture was used to build deep learning models for eight microscale features guided by the Microscale Audit of Pedestrian Streetscapes Mini tool: sidewalks, sidewalk buffers, curb cuts, zebra and line crosswalks, walk signals, bike symbols, and streetlights. We used a train–correct loop, whereby images were trained on a training dataset, evaluated using a separate validation dataset, and trained further until acceptable performance metrics were achieved. Further, we used trained models to audit participant (N = 512) neighborhoods in the WalkIT Arizona trial. Correlations were explored between microscale features and GIS-measured and participant-reported neighborhood macroscale walkability. Classifier precision, recall, and overall accuracy were all over >84%. Total microscale was associated with overall macroscale walkability (r = 0.30, p < 0.001). Positive associations were found between model-detected and self-reported sidewalks (r = 0.41, p < 0.001) and sidewalk buffers (r = 0.26, p < 0.001). The computer vision model results suggest an alternative to trained human raters, allowing for audits of hundreds or thousands of neighborhoods for population surveillance or hypothesis testing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number4548
JournalInternational journal of environmental research and public health
Volume19
Issue number8
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 1 2022

Keywords

  • Google Street View
  • built environment
  • computer vision
  • deep learning
  • microscale
  • walkability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pollution
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis

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