The latest trends in IT invites city planners and urban strategists to start considering Augmented Reality (AI). Especially with the arriving rollout of 5G that allows for a lot of data at high speed, the possibility to view the world through our devices entered dynamically in the urban agenda.
The advantage of augmented reality in relation to previous back-end technologies is that it made it possible to interact differently with the normal environment. It offers an innovative way of bringing data to life. In this way, AR enlivens information and offers immersive experiences of the physical space.
Andrew Ross, in his article “Smart cities and augmented reality: is it set to become a reality?” says that in the field of smart cities, AR offers a number of advantages. AR allows communicating information to the public in unprecedented ways. It offers us the possibility to enhance documentation, create a virtual representation of a planned building or extension as a real layer over the existing space. Imagine for instance, how simpler things would be if we could take each stakeholder, developer, governor or our students for a walk in a Smart City. In this way, the real-time simulated and aggregated data display on the site and through AR we understand the daily operation of a smart city solution at a district.
Microsoft presented some years ago some examples of this logic in their video about the future of productivity This video predicted a change in social practices presenting, for instance, the case where we would be able to look at projected data on the buildings while walking or while traveling inside a city. Furthermore, with the help of VR glasses, the users could see all the information that helps out a comfortable business trip pressing a simple click on the taxi window etc. Certainly, this was a preliminary thought about ameliorating navigation in the city.
Similarly, another example is the use of AR in the projects for the improvement of the sightseeing experience. Specifically, AI allows for the display of historical data of any monument on our phone, and an extension of that becomes a simultaneous augmented guide. This means, that we can see any building or monument through an augmented information layer that will allow us instantly get information about it.
Furthermore, (MIT) Media Lab in collaboration with the City of Hamburg on the project Finding Places is using optically-tagged LEGO bricks, simulation algorithms, and augmented reality to model potential locations for refugee accommodations. Locals could move the gridded LEGO bricks around the table to control locations and attributes of accommodations and visualize the results. Participants identified 160 locations, and the government quickly authorized 44 and constructed ten—compressing a process that can often take years.
As I mentioned in my article Urban design with ICT – 3 steps methodology in the “architecture of public space” planning is an essential element in all these cases. We can now extract and project data onto buildings, and the hierarchy of information is often reflected in the size of the buildings and the layout of the town. Now, this hierarchy has been overlaid onto real-life public space, allowing us to question whether they go along with the organization of our neighborhoods or whether new organizational forms will take place. Is public space being treated with a reverence perhaps not seen since 16th century Rome?