Applications of Immersive Technologies in Smart Cities

ForbesAugust 27, 2019

For quite a while now, there’s been great interest in smart cities. While there is no universally accepted definition of a smart city, the ultimate aim is to provide improved citizen services and a better lifestyle to urban dwellers.

In the quest to transform this ambitious plan into reality, governments, urban planners, engineers, and architects are collaboratively strategizing and leveraging new-age, digital technologies. Big data, AI, IoT, and cloud are a few of the technologies that can contribute to make this initiative a success. While these technological tools help in accomplishing smart-city success, augmented reality and virtual reality in smart cities can improve residents’ self-reliance and decision-making. Immersive technologies that either immerse users into an altogether different, interactive and digital environment, or superimpose digital content into a physical world, have unique and compelling uses in smart cities, like the ones discussed below:

Augmented reality in smart cities

With the availability of high-speed, consistent network connectivity, AR technology has matured enough to help cities in becoming smart, digital, and connected in the following ways:


Navigation apps are one of the most important tools for commuters in urban cities. These apps recommend the shortest routes, helping people to easily commute from one location to another in less time. However, AR promises to offer an even more compelling and unique experience for those in need of navigation help.

Today, if we get confused while traveling to a new place, we take out our smartphones and open the navigation app for help. We have to look at our smartphone screen constantly so that we don’t miss out on any directions. The approach we follow is actually inconvenient and unsafe. AR can play an important role here. Rather than presenting users with a complicated map, AR uses the phone camera to get information on the user’s location, augment navigational content on the mobile display, and help the user navigate while they walk, etc. Those using an AR-based navigation app just move their phone around, and AR uses an indicator to point out the right direction. For instance, view this AR-based navigation app as it works, here. This way, AR can provide users with not only a novel navigation experience but also help in commuting safely.

Disaster response

When a disaster hits, first-responders should have seamless and clear communication with others, involving proper information about current conditions, and prompt decision-making capabilities to provide appropriate guidance and help. To carry out relief and safety operations, these officials should be given the right tools and support. AR tools can provide the best assistance and support for their needs.

Imagine when floods happen and people are stranded and need to be rescued. The rescue officers should be quickly and safely guided to the destination since wires that get submerged in water can pose serious risks to them. Scenarios like these can be handled well by AR. Just by wearing an AR-based smart glass, officers can obtain in-depth information about the location, the stranded people, and the safest route to reach them.

Further, AR can be used to train the rescue officers with interactive visual effects, helping them to experience real threats. Training like this can boost the officers’ confidence, which will help them carry out safe evacuation operations.

Medical services

Along with maintaining the standard of living, smart cities also focus on improving residents’ well-being and mental health. While digital technologies have always been effectivein the health-care sector, AR’s potential in the medical sector is truly novel and innovative.

Nowadays, patients are becoming more and more health-conscious and are expecting to be constantly updated on their health conditions and complications. However, despite doctors’ explaining their health conditions to them, there sometimes remain communication gaps, which may later give rise to conflicts. AR can solve this issue for us. PatientAR, an AR app that is designed by an orthopaedic medical company, allows patients to better understand their knee condition, helping them and their doctors to be on the same page.

Virtual reality in smart cities

VR, a technology that immerses users into an altogether different world by showing them an illusory version of reality, has the following potential uses in smart cities:


Traditional learning approaches are deemed boring by 60 percent of students. These approaches are not only boring but also ineffective. The use of VR provides an exceptional and innovative way to increase knowledge retention for students at affordable prices.

Imagine students getting an opportunity to travel to remote geographic locations or to World War scenarios. Imagine them getting to touch a human organ in anatomy class or visiting another planet in the solar system for physics lessons. That’s only possible with the power of VR. VR technology can, thus, make learning easier and more understandable for students, helping them rapidly grow in their career.

Urban planning

Smart cities incorporate sensors, cameras, and actuators while building new structures or infrastructures. Smart cities focus on optimized use of space, making transportation easier, and also emitting less greenhouse gases from buildings. All of these require extensive planning before the development process. Construction and structural engineers today use 3D drawing models and other visualization tools and technologies to create flawless architectural models.

With the help of VR, city planners can effectively check whether the built model fits the existing infrastructural constraints and space. If not, then the engineers can make the required alterations to the model. The virtual avatar of the city, having all the required infrastructural designs, will give urban planners and engineers a clear understanding of what to build and where. And, residents may also be given an opportunity to provide suggestions as to how cities can be better transformed and developed.

Police training

It is important to establish effective training programs for novice police officers. Exposing them to real-life high-stakes situations and allowing them to deal with these will help officers to become more confident during an actual crisis. However, providing such a real-life training setup is not only expensive, but also time-consuming.

VR, on the other hand, can immerse the police officers into a training world, where they will be put into real-life locations and threat situations. Officers, when exposed to a realistic environment will learn to not only deal with catastrophes but also manage the post-incident responses. Officers who aren’t performing well can be identified and instructed on the spot. With VR, police officers will be trained for every foreseeable emergency situation and will be ready to take action in dangerous circumstances.

With the availability of affordable hardware and consistent Internet connectivity, augmented reality and virtual reality are becoming easily accessible for transforming city-related plans into reality. Having the potential to provide engaging experiences to users, augmented reality and virtual reality in smart cities have a tremendous ability to transform and revolutionize residents’ lifestyles.

This article was written by Naveen Joshi from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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