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NYU CUSP aims continuous camera at Lower Manhattan

CUSP's Urban Observatory turns skyline photos into big data.

Two versions of the same image. The second shows the image after processing by NYU's Urban Observatory algorithm, explained below. (Image courtesy of NYU CUSP)

CUSP has a camera taking photos of Manhattan around the clock.

A part of the mission of the Center for Urban Science + Progress is to treat New York City itself as its lab. The new center in Downtown Brooklyn is working to gather up as much data as it can about the city in order to make scientific observations. This is an instance where CUSP is gathering its own data, rather than using data provided by others.

On Monday, it announced the Urban Observatory: an 8-megapixel camera that sits atop a building in Brooklyn and takes a photo of Lower Manhattan every 10 seconds.

CUSP's algorithmic system tracks the changing elements of the city's skyline.

The image above is two versions of a photo taken one day at 11 a.m. The top is a traditional photo. The bottom is the photo after processing.

The CUSP system removes everything that’s constant in the photo, such as the structures, and lets the observatory’s algorithms focus on changing elements, such as exhaust plumes, lights, etc.

Any individuals captured in the shot are blurred, according to the announcement. “A team of CUSP scientists have been working on this technology for almost two years. Data will be made available for analysis by CUSP personnel and others by proposal.”

“This technology comes at an opportune time when about 80% of the U.S. population and 50% of the global population live in cities,” said Dr. Steven Koonin, NYU CUSP’s founding director. “We’ll take these large data sets and turn them into solutions for city-wide problems, helping us to better understand our urban environment and improve the quality of life for citizens around the world.”

We'll take these large data sets and turn them into solutions for city-wide problems.
Companies: Center for Urban Science and Progress
Series: Brooklyn
People: Steve Koonin

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