Sustainable urbanism with mixed reality innovation
For architects, surveyors and city planners, 2D designs and blueprints provide all the information required to make decisions on a future building. But for the citizens and members of the community that will use it, live in it and walk in its shadow – a much more intuitive way of presenting the information is required.
Ericsson ONE is a global community of thinkers and doers, designers, developers and entrepreneurs, brought together by a shared mission to create easy to use innovations that scale, last and solve real problems that people care about. Ericsson ONE is where we incubate new businesses and make bold innovation come to life. The Mixed Reality incubation project is part of the Ericsson ONE initiative, ensuring urban growth is carried out in a sustainable, community-led way.
Urbanism is one of the biggest challenges the world faces today - an estimated 60 percent of the urban area that will exist in 2030 is yet to be built. With so many new human habitats to create, how do we ensure we are building sustainably? How do we ensure the cities of the future are fit for purpose for a growing urban population? The answer lies in ICT. With the capacity to open up dialogue and facilitate better sharing of information in new ways, communication technology has the potential to play a major role in this new approach to democratized city planning. Specifically – mixed reality.
Where augmented reality places information over what the eye sees, and virtual reality creates a self-contained environment where nothing is real, mixed reality is the practice of placing virtual objects in a real space. The amount of data processing power and bandwidth required scales according to the complexity of the object and the level of realistic anchoring it demands, and is normally only achievable in controlled indoor environments. Until now.
With the power of 5G distributed cloud, it is not only possible to anchor an entire building design in a real city space, but to give citizens the chance to provide feedback, interact with and even go inside the buildings – long before they have been built. This community-driven approach puts power back in the hands of the people when it comes to influencing their own neighborhoods, ensuring residents have a say in the future of their cities. Urban city planning needs to be efficient to accommodate growing populations, and thanks to mixed reality, lengthy approval process for municipal authorites can be reduced. The solution has potential applications in many other areas, from education to gaming.
Problem solving by design
A product's adoptability, market viability – and ultimately its success – come down to two core questions. Does it solve a real problem, and does it do it better than current solutions?
Partnership and collaboration are the ways to answer those questions. Ericsson has partnered with several organizations to demonstrate how this platform can be applied in an outside-in, design-led way to solve real problems.
In 2017, when the Johannesburg suburb of Bloemfontein was approaching redevelopment, the municipal authority wanted to make sure the local community was as engaged as possible in the process. Ericsson worked closely together with UN Habitat to create a simple, Minecraft-based interface that enabled students and local residents to create buildings they would like to see built – and then actually walk out and see them through the mixed reality interface.
The results were incredible – it gave the residents greater access and control than ever before over their environment, and demonstrated the power of edge computing in opening up the city planning and construction process.
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