Webcams and Crowdsourcing

Images of cycle traffic before (left; 2009) and after (right; 2010) construction of a cycling path. Photos show the intersection of Pennsylvania Avenue NW and 9th Street NW, Washington DC. Photos courtesy of the web archive: Archive of Many Outdoor Scenes

Images of cycle traffic before (left; 2009) and after (right; 2010) construction of a cycling path. Photos show the intersection of Pennsylvania Avenue NW and 9th Street NW, Washington DC. Photos courtesy of the web archive: Archive of Many Outdoor Scenes

Project Dates: 2014-2016

This project is a novel, interdisciplinary collaboration between public health and computer science to improve surveillance and evaluation of physical activity patterns and associated built environment characteristics.

Specifically, the project examines innovative strategies to develop a real-time, non-labor intensive assessment of physical activity and built environment characteristics by capitalizing on webcams continually taking photographs of outdoor spaces.

The Media and Machines Laboratory of Dr. Robert Pless developed and maintains the Archive of Many Outdoor Scenes (AMOS) that has collected over 325 million images of outdoor environments from more than 23,000 web cameras (webcams) since 2006. Every identified, outdoor, publicly-available on the Internet webcam is added to the AMOS dataset with an image taken and archived each half hour from the webcam thereafter. AMOS continues to expand with new webcams and newly captured images. Scenes include street intersections, plazas, parks, and school playgrounds.

Project Goals

  • Develop and test the reliability of using publicly available, outdoor webcams to enumerate built environment characteristics and physical activity patterns across thousands of global outdoor environments.
  • Develop and test the reliability and validity of using crowd-sourcing to enumerate built environment characteristics and physical activity patterns across thousands of global outdoor environments.

Implications for Research and Practice

Results will yield actionable knowledge regarding the use of webcams and crowd-sourcing to increase by orders of magnitude the amount and quality of global recorded measurements of physical patterns and built environments. This type of consistent and up-to-date surveillance has wide-ranging applicability from community to international obesity prevention evaluation.

Project Contact

Amy Eyler: aeyler@wustl.edu

Project Staff

Principal Investigator: Dr. J. Aaron Hipp

Project Co-Investigators: Dr. J. Aaron Hipp, Dr. Robert Pless, Dr. Amy Eyler

Graduate Research Assistants: Deepti Adlakha, PhD Student; Rebecca Gernes, MSW-MPH student

Funding Source

National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health: R21-CA186481

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