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Geometric models

Photorealistic media
  Augmented reality

Visual Communication

Future Developments


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Virtual Environments

Case Studies Index

Visual Communication in Urban Planning and Urban Design

3.3 Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality (AR) is a technology in which a user's view of the real world is enhanced or augmented with additional information generated from a computer model. The enhancement may take the form of labels, 3D rendered models or shading modifications. The uses of AR in modelling the built environment are numerous, from the placement of a piece of street furniture into a photo-realistic scene to the overlay of new urban form. To a limited extent, `Wired Whitehall' is a basic example of AR, in that virtual billboards are created within photo-realistic panoramas, in order to create hyper-links of relevance to the urban scene. For example, a virtual billboard near Downing Street allows access to the "No. 10 Downing Street" Web site. A degree of interactivity within the urban scene is desirable if various planning schemes are proposed. This can be achieved by combining VRML 2.0 objects and photospatial scenes giving AR on the WWW.

Figure 23 illustrates the placement of a VRML 2.0 object into a 3600 panorama using RealVR. RealVR ( is a `plug-in' for the Netscape browser that allows the insertion of VRML 2.0 objects into scenes. Once an object has been placed, augmenting reality, the user is able to move the object into and out of the panorama.

Figure 23. Augmented Reality on the WWW: Object placement.

3.3.1 Virtual Reality Studio

An important aspect in the development of Augmented Reality with photorealistic media is the ability quickly to create realistic looking representations of the urban environment. LivePicture are currently running a Beta version of their Virtual Reality Studio software, allowing VRML 2.0 objects to be easily placed in Photorealistic scenes.

Figure 24. Virtual Reality Studio Interface

Figure 24 illustrates an article of Street Furniture, in this case a telephone box, being placed into an urban scene. Any number of objects may be placed within the scene, allowing the introduction of comparative design on the WWW. Whilst AR and photorealistic scenes do not have the same degree of interaction as do Virtual Worlds, they provide and important step forward in the ability quickly and easily to visualise urban planning and urban design information.

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