Ericsson and UN-Habitat report on use of MR in urban planning

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The use of mixed reality (MR) technology in urban planning must have public participation at its heart, according to a new report from Ericsson and UN-Habitat.

Ericsson is exploring the use of MR in urban planning with the United Nations programme, as part of a collaboration on applied research projects into frontier technologies that has been in place since 2014.

The new report, Mixed reality for public participation in urban and public space design: Towards a new way of crowdsourcing more inclusive smart cities, follows a two-year research study, between Ericsson, UN-Habitat, and municipalities and local partners, that considered city-scale MR within the context of urban design.

The study looked at how MR technology can be used to experience the feel of planned buildings, public spaces or streets that do not yet exist. The partners developed and piloted MR in Johannesburg, South Africa, and Stockholm, Sweden.

According to the report, frontier technologies such as MR can help bridge the gap between residents and policymakers and improve political outcomes.

Marcus Nyberg, insights lead for design and technology at Ericsson One, explained in a blog post that a focus on public participation was the key.

He said: “By focusing the use of new technologies on public participation, stakeholder engagement and inclusive urban planning, it can be possible to approach the smart cities field from a different perspective, one that places people at the centre and uses technology to ensure that our future cities are compact, connected and integrated.”

Nyberg continued: “Mixed reality holds tremendous potential for real-time digital visualisations, both at the street and neighbourhood level and the overall urban skyline and city grid.”

“This new visually realistic blending of reality with virtual imagination can create a more intuitive space for planners, architects, residents and other stakeholders to viscerally experience and re-imagine future environments.”

“Architectural sketches and designs can be made more legible and accessible, thus pulling users into the process of design and strengthening the long-term viability and buy-in of urban projects.”

He concluded that explorations and pilots are now informing Ericsson’s development of 5G and edge computing—considered integral to the development of ‘smart cities’—“to enable large-scale, high-definition mixed reality with complex photorealistic content”.

Image credit: Ericsson and UN-Habitat