Virtual Reality is fast becoming the medium of choice for property and large infrastructure developers as a means of explaining, prototyping and allowing communities to experience new developments before they are off the ground.
Government and local authorities are already dabbling with VR as a way of supporting ongoing community and civic engagement programs.
Moreton Bay Regional Council in Queensland, Australia is one example of local government using VR to support their engagement activities.
For their recent online consultation The Mill, Moreton Bay, multiple VR experiences were developed to introduce 6 key components of a new major development scheme.
Virtual Reality greatly assisted in informing the community about the complex plans for the development, which involved transforming an old paper mill into a world-class technology and innovation hub including a new university for 20,000 students.
Using VR allowed community members and stakeholders to experience the development proposals up close, prior to giving feedback via an online submission form.
The experience allowed the community to stand at street level to assess building heights and open spaces, fly above the site in a helicopter to experience the vastness of conservation zones, as well as investigate new residential communities, parking options and transit designs.
In addition to incorporating VR, Moreton Bay used a variety of other mechanisms including: images and video, fly-throughs, pdf design options and key documents to ensure the community was well informed. Having these resources allowed for the community to provide valuable feedback on Moreton Bay’s design scheme.
This resulted in a high online engagement rate for the project of almost 40% and a 90% public approval rate for the development.
The inclusion of VR in this online engagement project also had the benefit of driving communications and promotional activities.
Moreton Bay printed custom project branded Google Cardboard Goggles and distributed them to the community, creating buzz and awareness around the project and allowing the community to share the experience with friends and family.
To ensure people knew how to use the equipment and launch the experience correctly, Moreton Bay prepared a simple instructional video on their site.
Whilst using VR is not suitable for every project, not least because of the cost considerations, it does prove to be a new and innovative way to help communities understand major development projects as part of online and offline engagement activities.