Utilizing modern virtual reality technology in software development for city planning

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Title: Utilizing modern virtual reality technology in software development for city planning
Author: Salminen, Teemu
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Science
Publisher: Helsingin yliopisto
Date: 2019
Language: eng
URI: http://urn.fi/URN:NBN:fi:hulib-201908133216
Thesis level: master's thesis
Discipline: Tietojenkäsittelytiede
Abstract: The use of virtual reality technology in the field of city planning has grown during the recent decades, because virtual reality provides a highly informative and immersive experience of an urban area in contrast to traditionally used 2-dimensional material, such as imagery and animations. This makes communication and decision making between the stakeholders of a city planning project much more efficient and enables participating the public to the process, which is very desirable in city planning projects. The virtual reality technology has evolved dramatically during the past few years. Devices such as head-mounted displays, spatial controllers and CAVE installations, and developing environments, such as game engines and 3D modeling studios have become more available for consumers and developers. Therefore, the opportunities for virtual reality technology requires revisiting. The goal of this study is to find software development opportunities for city planning projects using virtual reality technologies and realize those opportunities by implementing a model solution for use cases that show the most potential for development. The model solution is a high-level modeling tool, which can be used for fast drafting and modeling of city-scale plans, and provides appealing visualization for presentation purposes. This allows architects to make changes to the city plan immediately as they are receiving feedback from the decision makers and other stakeholders of a city planning project. This makes the decision making much faster, as the modifications can be made during the meeting, instead of re-scheduling another meeting to see the changes to the plan. The model solution also allows viewing the plan in a highly immersive virtual reality environment, with devices such as head-mounted displays. The development of this software is executed following well known agile methodologies used in commercial software development projects and is extended with a literature review and an analysis of the functionality of the model solution. The literature review charts the existing applications and studies of virtual reality in city planning so that opportunities for further development can be found. From these opportunities, the use cases showing the most potential are chosen and refined to a concept of an application. This concept is then refined to concrete designs and implemented in iterations, producing a final solution. The final solution is then analyzed in a test setup, including 8 participants, who are given city planning tasks, and answers a survey afterward, affirming that the model solution is a useful tool for future city planning projects.

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