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Local AI startup creates platform to track social distancing in global cities -- including Ann Arbor

Voxel51 uses its powerful video analytics to track movement during COVID-19 pandemic

A person jogs past a sign encouraging social distancing Thursday. Exercise is one of the allowed exceptions to most stay-at-home and shelter-in-place orders in place to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
A person jogs past a sign encouraging social distancing Thursday. Exercise is one of the allowed exceptions to most stay-at-home and shelter-in-place orders in place to slow the spread of the coronavirus. (AP photo by Jeff Roberson))

ANN ARBOR – Housed in Kerrytown Market & Shops, Voxel51 recently launched the Voxel51 Physical Distancing Index (PDI) to measure how the coronavirus pandemic is changing human activity in cities around the world -- in real time.

Founded by a University of Michigan professor in computer vision and his Ph.D. student who specializes in machine learning, Voxel51 uses a technique called “urban sensing” to help cities understand people, infrastructure and vehicles using expansive video camera systems like CCTV.

Read: Inside Voxel51: AI video analytics startup founded by U-M professor, student

Once they understood the gravity of the coronavirus pandemic, they decided to put their urban sensing to good use.

Live view of University of Michigan's campus in Ann Arbor on the afternoon of April 3, 2020 on Voxel51's PDI.
Live view of University of Michigan's campus in Ann Arbor on the afternoon of April 3, 2020 on Voxel51's PDI. (Voxel51)

The platform can be accessed here and visitors can see live streams of cities around the world and graphs ranking social distancing efforts, including:

  • New York City
  • Las Vegas
  • Dublin
  • London
  • Prague

Detroit and Ann Arbor are also being tracked.

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