Virtual and Augmented Reality for Joint Structural Change in Saxony-Anhalt

Published March 23, 2022

Workshop by the Fraunhofer IFF and Anhalt University in Magdeburg.

A wide variety of uses for 3D visualizations were presented by the Fraunhofer Institute for Factory Operation and Automation together with Anhalt University of Applied Sciences on March 18, 2022. The workshop on Virtual and Augmented Reality (VR, AR) technologies for population-centered structural change was initiated as part of the Saxony-Anhalt project “New European Bauhaus“.

After a short introduction to the meaning and definition of Virtual and Augmented Reality, the procedures for creating computer-based 3D models were explained in detail. In this context, the Fraunhofer IFF and Anhalt University presented relevant results from current projects. The focus was mainly on automated object generation from various geodata since digital information on the earth’s surface can generate model data as the basis for VR/AR visualizations quickly and with little effort.

Various application examples were prepared in advance, especially for the workshop’s needs. The numerous project realizations gave the participants a first overview of existing application possibilities of VR/AR models.

Figure 1: Application examples from the Fraunhofer IFF and Anhalt University in the field of “VR/AR and Participation“.

Energy infrastructures

  • Planning optimization through functions for variant planning and discussion as well as visibility analysis
  • Citizen participation through information, communication and integration
  • Process-accompanying data collection and evaluation for acceptance studies

Urban projects

  • Planning of intelligent urban redevelopment
  • Analysis tools for cost and benefit consideration
  • Documentation and communication of development concepts
  • Development of new city profiles

Economic Quarters

  • Open Space Marketing
  • Visualization of dynamic flows
  • Objective decision processes
  • Monitoring of workflows and process indicators

Information platforms

  • VR as a tourist experience space
  • VR for the documentation of development measures
  • Vr as a modern communication tool with the population

The knowledge gained in various projects over many years – especially in expanding and maintaining energy infrastructures – distinguishes the expertise in the field of “VR-/AR and Participation”. Furthermore, it was shown that virtual 3D models could be used in urban planning and redevelopment processes, for the documentation of development measures, and in the marketing of business districts in Saxony-Anhalt. In Addition, the personal effects of regional structural change can be better identified and evaluated using catchy visualizations and direct dialog with all participants.

The virtual 3D models used in the projects can be used in the future with different presentation technologies for the dialog between all participants, depending on the needs or user group. Thus, in the context of the VR/AR workshop, different presentation technologies were used to show the example applications and enable the participants to immerse themselves in the virtual world and evaluate it.  Not only were tablet, laptop or beamer used, but the participants could also view 3D televisions or projection systems. Furthermore, a trip to the 360-degree circular projection “ElbeDome” took place, in which a wide variety of application examples such as VR glasses or large-scale projection were presented and tested.

Figure 2: Impressions from the ElbeDome

The second part of the event was characterized by an intensive exchange between the individual workshop participants. Together with the experts and based on the gained insights, it was discussed how and where participatory VR/AR methods can be meaningfully addressed in Zeitz and Saxony-Anhalt. As a result, three areas of application could be identified, which were further detailed in the dialogue:

(1) identification of potential conversion objects,
(2) early and comprehensive activation of the public during the planning phase, and
(3) the realization phase.

1. Identification of potential conversion properties

In the beginning, it is essential to check which properties in the Zeitz region are the focus of the redevelopment and conversion processes, plus if they feature high conflict potential. Such a conflict potential can always exist if the parties involved have different ideas about the project selection, realization and variant determination. Only if significant process improvements can be expected from the technology used will the use of VR/AR methods make sense. For this purpose, the first step is to check whether joint participation of the population within the project realization is possible for the selected object. In addition, it must be clarified in advance whether there are different variants of planning objects. Can planning variants be developed together with the citizens? Is the use of VR/AR technology reasonable and possible? If a participatory approach is then given for a conversion object, it is possible to work out, evaluate and prioritize individual measures.

Such a methodical approach, especially if it happens under the early integration of the public, not only ensures the effective use of funds, but addresses a partnership-based participation for a population-centered structural change in Zeitz and the entire region.

2. Early and comprehensive involvement of the public – population as an active part of the project

It is essential to promptly involve the population in the planning phases for the region’s transformation. Information, communication and participation reduce inhibitions, provide the necessary basis for decision-making and allow people to help shape their environment. This is not only a modern, collaborative approach but has been shown to lead to fewer barriers in the overall progress of individual projects.

By conducting events or surveys regarding addressable visions of the future, Saxony-Anhalt residents can be directly mentioned and integrated into the overall process. But also quickly accessible contributions on the Internet, for example, using QR codes or a web-enabled system for the creation and presentation of variants of conversion objects in connection with a vivid 3D visualization, can enable extensive public participation. Flanked by cross-references and with links to other platforms or events, such Internet presences are a basis for the far-reaching involvement of the population.

3. Realization phase

During the realization phase, the experiences and synergies gained in the previous stages should be incorporated to enable the participation of all project partners and the citizens in the long term. For example, the individual construction steps can be documented using AR/VR technologies, thus enabling continuous communication on construction progress and important project indicators. In addition, other use cases are conceivable in the context of a municipal information system, such as recording the tree population, documenting road damage and its repair, or even information on waste collection. Such an information platform will have an increased focus on communication and information (e.g., using condition visualizations), and transparent communication will allow the public to participate intensively in the construction project. Thus, the previously developed participatory processes can be consistently continued.

After an intensive and successful workshop, the participants jointly stated that an ideal basis for a population-centered structural change is given, mainly due to the modern technological possibilities and the diversity of the participants. By transferring the current situation on site into the virtual world, fact-based conversations for the joint transformation of the region with all participants can emerge. Innovative solutions are apparent when combined with different planning variants and using a wide range of interaction techniques, such as visibility analyses using compensatory measures or measurements. Above all, the use of virtual 3D models for information, communication and participation creates new foundations for a joint structural change with the “Initiative for a New European Bauhaus” in Saxony-Anhalt.