Making a Place for Virtual Reality in Planning

As virtual reality technology becomes more accessible, it's time to start considering how immersive virtual experiences could help inform visioning process and design decision-making.
August 15, 2018, 9am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Melissa Kaplan-Macey, AICP, the vice president of state programs and Connecticut director at the Regional Plan Association, tells the story of an initial experience with augmented and virtual reality as a tool for planning.

Kaplan-Macey encountered two such technologies while visiting the IDEA lab to learn more about our New Rochelle Mayors’ Challenge Project.

Upon arrival, I was encouraged to try two technologies that the team had presented in one of its recent public outreach events at the New Rochelle Grand Market. The first was a virtual reality experience where I wore a headset and was instructed to circle parts of a local park I found most valuable. The second technology was an augmented reality game on a smartphone that allowed me to place, view (through my phone screen), and “walk around” a realistic virtual version of a park bench in the space where I was standing.

Here, Kaplan-Macey expresses the optimism for virtual reality among many of the planners who have encountered technology in a professional setting:

As an urban planner and policy analyst dedicated to ensuring a sustainable future for the NY Metropolitan region, I was excited see these prototypes and hear more about the team’s plans to use new forms of immersive media (such as augmented reality) to, as they put it: enhance the city planning process by allowing citizens new ways to co-design public spaces with their City, as well as helping citizens better visualize and understand physical projects that have already been approved or in the process of being built.

According to Kaplan-Macey, virtual reality could be a key tool in solving the biggest challenges of the era—problems that many people might believe are simply to big to solve.

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Published on Monday, August 6, 2018 in IDEA New Rochelle
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