It’s an exciting time to be working in virtual and augmented reality. After a few years of pushing hard to educate and upskill the community on the benefits, we finally have some great case studies that those forward-thinking companies and councils have been working on. The key areas where virtual and augmented reality  work well for councils are:

  • Data visualisation for better decision making
  • Public engagement and urban design
  • Tourism and talent attraction
  • Sports, recreation and wellbeing
  • Emergency management, maintenance and inspections


Data Visualisation for better decision making

Wellington City Council worked together with NEC on the smart city programme led by Sean Audine. In my view, its the perfect example of a council translating data into some usable and easy to understand so they can make smarter decisions. The 3D scan of the city and data integration enabled users to be able to see the impact of certain events in the city.  It’s a gamified version of Wellington transforming data into high-value information.

Want to see what happens when sea levels rise, traffic congestion or need to make smarter decisions about parking?  Virtual reality enables this.  Check out some of the work our software developer Alex worked on during his time at NEC.


Public engagement and urban design

The beauty of augmented reality is you can still see the real environment while overlaying digital content.  Where virtual reality completely immerses you in a 3D world.  This makes AR the perfect tool for showing plans, engaging communities on potential changes and they can see where it’s going to be and what it will look like. This could be through your mobile phone or an augmented reality headset like Hololens.

Christchurch Council has been leading the way in visualising new plans using augmented reality, and you can watch a short news clip here where they highlight some of the 20 projects they’ve funded to help lure people back into the CBD.


Talent and Tourism attraction

Virtual reality was born out of the entertainment industry.   The ability to tell unique stories using this medium is compelling.  Be it 360 videos showcasing your space, talent and benefits your region has to offer or photogrammetry to capture our national treasures and ensure they live on digitally forever.  There are so many different ways councils, government and business can leverage this for economic development and growth.  It’s also a lot of fun!

I had the opportunity to experience some open world virtual reality experiences at a conference recently, and they blew my mind.  We will be seeing more VR tourist and arcade attractions popping up across the globe.


Sports, recreation and wellbeing

Getting kids outside and exercising was something that Pokemon Go the popular augmented reality app launched with record downloads and 20+ million daily active users did without even thinking about the wellbeing opportunities it had.  If you haven’t heard or played the game it’s really what made AR mainstream and worth a look.

NZ has our own version with a slight twist. GEOAR created the Magical Parks AR games that have been adopted by several councils. With an average game session of 30 minutes, and kids running around 500m to 2km, kids are getting exercise without even realising it.   Magical Park works only in specific locations selected by a local council and seems to have had a positive impact which is very cool for a little NZ startup.

Playing games and having VR experiences can be great for our wellbeing.

Our team at Mixt recently worked with The New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation to produce three interactive 360 videos to help reduce anxiety, fear and depression and we are eagerly awaiting the clinical trial results.


Emergency management, maintenance and inspections

Councils have realised the importance of knowing where underground assets are before disaster hits.

Once again, augmented reality is an excellent tool for visualising these assets. It gives emergency management crew a mechanism to respond quickly and provide field workers instant visibility of what lies in their environment.   Augview is an NZ product that specialises in AR emergency management.

When it comes to inspections and maintenance, there are some fantastic AR headsets available like the ODG R9 and Daqri.  With handsfree control and linked data, they are designed specifically for maintenance.

And if you need to train people in dangerous situations, then virtual reality is the perfect solution.  It’s cost-effective and allows you to practise high-risk exercises.

Some examples of where VR has been used for training include:

  • Electrical wiring
  • Fire safety
  • Inductions
  • Challenging conversations
  • Conflict management
  • Sports training
  • Healthcare

NZ Government entities NZTA and ACC recently joined forces to test out the theory with their Drive VR app.

Drive VR aims to help young New Zealanders gain experience and confidence in critical driving tasks such as observation skills.  Drivers are challenged to spot hazards, check blind spots and mirrors, and look out of windows—all from a virtual driver’s seat. Observation skills are tracked, so learners can keep improving their high score.

You can download the app here to test out your driving skills!

The above is just a glimpse of some of the projects I know about or have been involved with and no doubt there are many many more.  If you are interested in know more about hardware solutions, the impact of 5G and AR cloud then check out my review of the Augmented World Expo held in Silicon Valley.


This article was originally written for the ALGIM Magazine by Jessica Manins