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Augmented and Virtual Reality — More than Entertainment on our Phones

GeoDecisions - Gannett Fleming
Authors: Joel Rogers, GIS Analyst, GeoDecisions, and Christopher Eby, Developer, GeoDecisions

Who doesn’t remember the Pokémon Go craze of 2016 (yes, it was that long ago!), with people staring at their phones and rushing to various locations chasing Pokémon?  While many no longer play the game, it remains one of the more widely known applications of augmented reality.

There are now apps that help users add flower crowns to their Snapchat selfies, visualize new IKEA furniture in their homes, and even pick their newest tattoos. However, this tech is more than just fun – it’s a technology that has yet to be truly tapped. It is only recently that augmented reality and virtual reality (AR/VR) technology is reaching a tipping point where the increased quality and affordability has made the tech ripe for widespread adoption. While there are many potential entertainment uses for AR/VR, it is time to begin exploring new applications of this tech across other industries. 

Bringing together the powerful analytics of geographic information systems (GIS) and AR/VR will provide a lifelike, near-hands-on experience with spatial data. This enhanced experience will lead to greater insights into patterns and relationships that have not yet been discovered. At GeoDecisions, we are exploring a host of GIS VR applications and are excited to begin offering high-quality, innovative AR/VR solutions. Here are a few examples of what is possible:

  • Imagine being able to show clients the effect of a proposed building renovation through an immersive VR experience. Developers can showcase their design surrounded by a model of its real-world setting provided by GIS.
  • Think of the effectiveness of generating an AR scene using GIS data of the buildings and terrain in a city’s floodplain during a public input meeting. City officials could use the scene to model flood events and visually demonstrate the importance of implementing flood mitigation efforts.
  • Consider the implications of using a VR-based bridge inspection system that combines drone technology and LIDAR imagery to capture 3D representations of bridge features remotely. Not only could it increase the frequency, speed, and safety of inspections, it could also lower operational costs.

As AR/VR tech becomes more widespread GeoDecisions is positioned to assist industries in coming up with creative uses for integrating these technologies. Normal procedures and tactics will be disrupted as companies seek to improve operations to save money and better serve their customers. The possibilities are limitless, and it is only a matter of time before AR and VR technology permeates all aspects of our daily lives at work and at home.

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