Not in my backyard! App to spot eyesores in the making
07 April 2011 by Duncan Graham-Rowe
IT IS the dream app for Nimbys everywhere: an augmented reality (AR) iPhone app that allows you to visualise what new developments will look like. That means you can complain, if necessary before construction begins, which could make life easier for town planners.
Interested parties can view a 3D digital model of the proposed build in situ, so they can work out how it might affect them, says Eckart Lange, head of landscape planning at the University of Sheffield in the UK.
He has been looking at different visualisation tools as part of a project called the Urban River Corridors and Sustainable Living Agendas, which aims to regenerate urban rivers. With the Walkabout 3D Mobile app installed on their iPhone or iPad, visitors to a building site can view the 3D model, created with Google's tool SketchUp, overlaid on the landscape. They can check if the work will overlook their property, block out sunlight or simply be an eyesore, he says.
However, unlike some AR apps, this one doesn't actually let you virtually walk through the area, says Ed Morgan of Deliverance Software, the app's creator. This is because 3D models are often extremely large files, far too big for a mobile device to continuously update in real time. Instead, a digital map guides you to the locations where it will work. There, you move your iPhone or iPad around and the inbuilt digital compass and GPS locator let you view virtual, static 3D panoramic views of the site, downloaded to your device over the 3G network, Morgan says.
While it is unlikely to be used any day soon for minor developments, such as kitchen extensions or loft conversions, this kind of visualisation tool could prove to be very helpful to planners for larger projects, says Tom Wilde, director of South Yorkshire Forest Partnership, part of Sheffield City Council's planning department, where he has been trying out the app.
Planners often have to use models that are not very realistic or interactive, says Wilde. "It's really valuable to be able to show people in the fresh air what future landscapes will look like alongside existing ones."
So far the AR app has been used as part of the planning application to build a new park in the heart of Sheffield, which has walls that can act as flood defences.
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