VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland

Using augmented reality, people can see how proposed projects could benefit or burden their neighborhood.

A proposed apartment complex or a new turn lane can fuel some of the most heated fires at community meetings and City Hall hearings. But for all the information developers and planners are required to share with people living and working near proposed developments, people still tend not to get a very good idea about exactly how a new project will affect them. For the determined NIMBY, an incomplete understanding of a proposed project won't necessarily get in the way of staunch opposition. But for everyone else, a text description and a computer rendering don't always paint a clear enough picture of how a new project would actually change their street or neighborhood.

Augmented reality can help make that picture a little more complete. Through a new technique being developed at the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, 3D models of proposed building projects can be displayed on the screens of mobile devices as if they had actually been planted into the environment. As this video from VTT shows, a proposed tower is spliced into the urban environment, offering people in surrounding areas a 3D idea of what such a project would look like.

The technique offers a way to actually show how a project would ruin (or not) views for neighbors on all sides and how the skyline in that part of town would change. Seeing the actual mass of a project overlaid on live and fluid image of the landscape, with the help of a phone or tablet, makes visceral what would otherwise be just a picture on a page.

Giving a project this type of spatial dimensionality may not win over a neighbor whose view stands to turn from beach to brick wall. But it does offer a better idea of exactly what a neighborhood has in store should proposed projects get built. Visualizing development proposals with this level of information would almost certainly help neighbors and stakeholders to form more sophisticated opinions about why a project might be good for their neighborhood, or why they definitely wouldn't want it in their backyard.

Image courtesy: VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland

About the Author

Nate Berg

Nate Berg is a freelance reporter and a former staff writer for CityLab. He lives in Los Angeles.

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