when virtual reality involves the inhabitants, Le Lab/Idées

The helmet of virtual reality will it soon be the essential accessory for every urban project? IN Seine-Saint-Denis, residents were able to discover the route and facilities of the extension of the T1 tram, which, over 20 kilometers, will connect Bobigny with Val de Fontenay. In Paris, it is elected officials who have used these technologies to make their choices on two major projects: the development of the grounds of Notre-Dame and the much larger Eiffel Tower.

If they weren’t wearing a helmet, the elected officials would go around the upcoming circles thanks to movies drawn from virtual models produced with the help of software publisher Autodesk. “It was especially useful for decision makers who are ultimately short on time and can take ownership of the project more quickly. One of the projects was particularly off-topic and this became clear immediately,” sums up Guillaume Joubert in Autodesk .

While other methods combine a participatory and digital approach such as serious games, immersive tools are essential because technology has not only become more democratic, but is gaining autonomy. “The new virtual reality headset is more efficient and no longer needs to be connected to a computer. This will allow them to be used outside during urban wanderings,” notes Jean-Guillaume Despres from the company. Vector, specialist in 3D models. Since then, these technologies have started to carve a place for themselves upstream to involve the public during the consultation phase of the project.

Augmented reality

In Oullins, on the outskirts of Lyon, residents have thus chosen the renovation project of Place Anatole-France as part of the construction of a new metro station. Intermediaries from the Métropole du Grand Lyon contacted residents to show them the two competing projects on tablets and through virtual reality headsets. In the end, the residents preferred the one that favored recovery, when the municipality leaned more in favor of a more mineral site, preserving the possibility of organizing the market.

In Limoges, on the occasion of the renewal of the Portes Ferrées district, carried out with the help of Anru, the agglomeration, assisted as in Lyon by the Vectuel company, connected residents in the choice of park installations. “The interest of virtual reality is to provide a realistic vision at ground level. Residents were able to design themselves and express what they wanted,” insists Laurence Borie, urban renewal project manager for Limoges.

Other urban planning specialists are betting on an alternative technology: augmented reality. Thus, within the European project AR4cup (augmented reality for collaborative urban planning) the company Artifacto developed the CitySense app. The user who holds his smartphone at eye level thus discovers the future development of the district which is displayed on the screen in computer generated images. “CitySense turns the smartphone into an open window to the future, as it allows the citizen to wander around the neighborhood discovering buildings or devices that do not yet exist,” he explains. Valerie Cottereauarchitect and founder of Artefacto.

An “emotional map” of the future neighborhood

The app also allows user feedback to be collected in real time. During the walking tour, he answers written questions and is invited to take pictures of places he likes. The methodology for gathering information was developed at the Politecnico di Milano (Polimi), in Italy, by scientists, urban planners and psychologists drawing on cognitive science.

“From all these data, we draw an ’emotional map’ of the next circle. Does it feel relaxing or stressful? Is it more suitable for exercise activities or more for relaxation? Once there are enough users, it is possible to analyze the results by category: old or young, women or men”, says Barbara Piga, architect and researcher in Polimi.

The Artefacto company has developed a very simplified first version. “With the Polimi method, we are in a very advanced approach which will take time before it is imposed. Elected officials or promoters first want certainty and we limit ourselves to simple questions, but which are often considered essential by the residents: the height of the buildings, the vegetation, “summarizes Valérie Cottereau.

If the vast majority of elected officials and promoters are still very cautious about immersive technologies that bring transparency, some want to accelerate. Like Thierry Le Bihan, mayor of Mordelles on the outskirts of reindeer : “In development operations, mayors often remain in the phase of consultation with residents. In our city, we want to push the slider up a notch by going right co-construction. I expect a lot from these digital tools which produce understandable information for all parties, public decision makers, promoters and residents. »

Building city upon city

Mentalities are slowly changing, especially in technical services. “These tools will prevail, but care must be taken that they are used at the right time. From the project side, we must know where we are going, but always have room for maneuver”, analyzes Odile Pagani, responsible for public spaces and infrastructures in Metropolis of Greater Lyon . The community is also considering the use of virtual reality for its major development project on the right bank of the Rhône.

The challenges of urban planning are changing and the order to save the earth with ” zero net land acquisition “It will be an incentive, believes Thierry Le Bihan. “We will have to build the city upon the city and reshape what already exists by redesigning entire sectors. This imposes a new way of working for the elected, but also the architects who will have to take into account the opinion of the residents. These tools, which make possible closer work, are virtuous because they make it possible to limit the risk of error. »

However, there are risks. “Immersive technologies are a double-edged sword,” warns Barbara Piga, who campaigns for the creation of a “ ethics” specific to the use of these tools in urban planning. “We can lie so easily and embellish things with immersive technology playing with sizes, colors, atmospheres. Misused, the tool can be dangerous. Therefore, we need to find a way to make it reliable. One of the options can be always involves a third party having no direct interest in the project. »

Urbipuzl, a digital game to draw the city

Your mission: develop the park 10,000 m2 using the facilities you have available (benches, playgrounds, paths, kiosks, trees, etc.) respecting the budget. The digital game Urbipuzl, a kind of SimCity in miniature, developed by the firm Repérage Urbain, was used by 300 residents consulted during around ten meetings held as part of the renewal of the Cité Blanche, in Bordeaux. “With this kind of tool, which runs on a simple laptop, we can reach residents and even children who are very creative. Participation becomes much more dynamic and creative if we compare it to what we get at the end of very formal meetings in which we always have the same people”, analyzes Benjamin Hecht, sociologist and specialist in consulting in development projects. planning and mandate from Bordeaux. Metropolis. The Urban Follow-up has thus drawn up a summary plan which takes the main elements from the 80 plans drawn up by the residents and which will be proposed to the elected officials. “Thanks to the collective intelligence of the residents, we got a result that is an excellent compromise of all expectations. I hope this will inspire elected officials,” notes Benjamin Hecht.

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