Talking augmented reality at the GeoTech meetup

Layla Gordon at the GeoTech Meetup

Layla Gordon at the GeoTech Meetup

At our recent GeoTech Meetup at the Geovation Hub the hot topic of conversation was augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), and how mashing these with geospatial data unlocks the potential for some pretty exciting innovations in the near future.

OS Labs engineer, Layla Gordon, led the event at the Hub, and here she explains some of her adventures with AR…

Our first foray into the virtual spaces goes back to May 2015 where OS was the platinum sponsor of an event called Digital Shoreditch in London. The venue is a Victorian basement with lots of corridors and rooms and in previous years visitors had trouble navigating within the building and finding the exhibitions they wanted to see.


After performing a user experience (UX) study internally on the problem, we formed the idea of producing a visitor app that would guide people through the building to the exhibits they wanted to find.

Creating a virtual version of the building was the first step. We used Blender to produce a 3D model. With this the user can familiarise themselves with the environment before the event and do a virtual walk-through of the building from the comfort of their living room. They can also use the app on the day to search for exhibitions, which the app can then guide them to.


Working on the Mars AR in Blender

Our next foray and case study was a Mars AR experience with a 3D model of planet Mars featuring the Schiaparelli crater. We built it using height data from NASA and with advice from UK Space Agency involved in ExoMars mission. In February this year Christopher Wesson, an OS cartographer, produced a map of the red planet that proved very popular with people from all over the world. Within OS Labs, we had the idea for an educational cartography piece to allow enthusiasts to study the surface of Mars, the depth of craters and the terrain. Vuforia, Blender and Unity were used to create the app which recognises the Mars map as an augmentable target. When this happens a 3D model is snapped onto the real world paper map and is tracked in real time. The next stage is embedding this experience into Gear VR headset.

Another interesting case study in progress is the concept of using AR in hospital navigation by displaying navigation arrows in an AR experience on a real time camera view. The arrows would help you navigate in a turn by turn fashion. This is underpinned by iBeacon technology for indoor positioning. An extension to this would be the concept of smart signs that look like generic symbols but within an AR app, as you hold your mobile device up to them, relevant content to your appointment within the hospital is revealed, including how to get to the relevant clinic and any delay times. This is all tied into your calendar and custom to you as a user.


Another consideration is AR Underground Asset Management for visualising underground assets (cables/pipes, and so on) overlaid on real world roads and pavements. The asset data is digital content coming from the companies who own the assets, and with the help of OS MasterMap the digital content can be overlaid on real world objects to help engineers plan their work without/before digging the roads.

We had some great feedback from GeoTech Meetup attendees and you can check out some of the Twitter conversation and connect with others around the subject of #geotech. And do drop us a line on the blog if you’d like to participate in future ‘hands on’ AR\VR sessions.

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