Augmented reality (AR) may seem like a relatively new-fangled invention of the modern day, but in fact it was first designed over 50 years ago. While in the 1900s it was used predominantly for simulations to develop new military technology and science, now it has become accessible to the masses and, in doing so, has become a valuable asset in designing public spaces.
What is Augmented Reality?
Augmented Reality (AR) enables digital information to be superimposed and assimilated into our physical environment – in other words, it is a powerful tool that can integrate the real world with the digital in new and exciting ways. While typically associated with video games and other entertainment experiences, AR can be used for an inexhaustible variety of practical applications, including education, training, medical research, product development, environmental interaction and more.
How can Augment Reality assist in the design of public spaces?
When designing a public space, there are a variety of factors that make the entire process time-consuming and challenging. Thanks to AR, however, many of these processes become simplified and, not only easier, but provide better results.
One of AR’s most popular uses is to bring a product, or even an entire store, to the consumer. Global brands such as IKEA, Converse and Sephora, have implemented the technology to allow customers to sample and experience products within the comfort of their own home. Similarly, park infrastructure specialists, such as Grillex, have implemented AR to allow developers to view products as though they were already installed in the space.
No longer having to rely solely on measurements, images from multiple angles and product samples, AR can help landscape architects and public space developers envision the exact layout of the space, while onsite or from the office (or home). Using AR, the right BBQ can be selected based on the needs of the community, along with complementary shelters and park furniture. Colours can be changed, sizes can be adjusted, and additional features can be added or removed, all with the click of a button – or tap of a finger – making designing the best public space a breeze.
With a fully integrated AR system, a user can even take a walk through the public space to investigate and interact with the proposed design.
What can AR do in an established public space?
Once the public space has been designed, developed and released onto the public, it can seem like the job of AR is over. However, AR can continue to be a useful tool in maintaining a public space, and encouraging user interactions with the space.
Apps can connect maintenance teams with equipment throughout the space, alerting them when there is an issue (such as damage or a need to replace a battery etc.), and provide the user with a detailed view of the product and the concern that needs fixing. This saves time and money, reducing the need for maintenance teams to make trips out to locations to check on equipment that may be functioning perfectly or may have already been damaged without their knowledge.
AR can also be used to gamify a space. Using AR apps, users can easily discover what is available in the space that they can benefit from, such as cafes, playgrounds, BBQs, hiking trails, fitness equipment and more. While wandering through the area, AR can help users to discover the historical significance of landmarks and be educated on local Indigenous culture. AR can also be used connect users to outdoor recreation equipment by utilising a virtual trainer to help them get active in the right way and measure their progress. Kids can join in the fun by using apps to virtually interact with a playground in ways that they couldn’t before. Get inspired and check out some fun ideas from various theme parks around the world, including Disneyland, LEGOLAND and Universal Studios.
Augmented Reality is no longer a nice-to-have, but is a necessity when designing a public space or park. Using AR will create a seamless design, development and integration experience that will save time and money, while adding to the overall quality of the space and providing value to communities for years to come.