MapQA: A Dataset for Question Answering on Choropleth Maps

by   Shuaichen Chang, et al.
The Ohio State University

Choropleth maps are a common visual representation for region-specific tabular data and are used in a number of different venues (newspapers, articles, etc). These maps are human-readable but are often challenging to deal with when trying to extract data for screen readers, analyses, or other related tasks. Recent research into Visual-Question Answering (VQA) has studied question answering on human-generated charts (ChartQA), such as bar, line, and pie charts. However, little work has paid attention to understanding maps; general VQA models, and ChartQA models, suffer when asked to perform this task. To facilitate and encourage research in this area, we present MapQA, a large-scale dataset of  800K question-answer pairs over  60K map images. Our task tests various levels of map understanding, from surface questions about map styles to complex questions that require reasoning on the underlying data. We present the unique challenges of MapQA that frustrate most strong baseline algorithms designed for ChartQA and general VQA tasks. We also present a novel algorithm, Visual Multi-Output Data Extraction based QA (V-MODEQA) for MapQA. V-MODEQA extracts the underlying structured data from a map image with a multi-output model and then performs reasoning on the extracted data. Our experimental results show that V-MODEQA has better overall performance and robustness on MapQA than the state-of-the-art ChartQA and VQA algorithms by capturing the unique properties in map question answering.


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