Image of the PHVision project

PHVision — “The Science City of the future” as a augmented reality experience for Microsoft HoloLens.

Patrick Henry Village (PHV) is one of the most exciting conversion and urban development projects of our time: the 100-hectare site near Heidelberg is to be the birthplace of the “Science City of the future”. We have developed the augmented reality experience “PHVision”, with which the vision is brought to life exclusively on the Microsoft HoloLens.

Translated by Daniel Walther from the original German article by Martin Schaarschmidt.

Background: From PHV to PHVision

PHV will form a working and living space for up to 15,000 people as an autonomous city quarter. IBA Heidelberg has, together with KCAP, developed the vision of the future for PHV. Here KCAP put their focus on the digital future, new synergies from economy and science, an “multi-mobility” approach, innovative places of education, as well as future-oriented living and working environments to strengthen the identity of the district.

Holograms to replace styrofoam and cardboard.

Augmented reality makes an ideal platform to visualize architectural and town planning projects and to introduce them to a wider audience. Much like a static model, the HoloLens allows to view holograms placed in the room to be viewed from different angles. Unlike a static model however a viewer can move not only the around the holograms, but through them, too. In addition holograms can be supplied with different functions by applying scripts, providing additional opportunities for interaction. Click gestures or visual focus can be used to start animations and depict additional information, for example. Another plus is the possibility of using existing resources such as 3D object models, ideally without much additional effort, into the augmented reality environment.

Visual interaction concept

The versatile interaction possibilities of the HoloLens allow the development of applications that can be both low-threshold and highly immersive at the same time, enabling the user to wholly experience the setting. In the case of PHVision, we have developed a visual interaction and navigation concept, which requires only a minimum of assistance. Users are guided intuitively have thusly a more natural experience. By visually focussing defined anchor points for a set duration, additional information is shown, animations are started and unrelated layers are hidden. This way, the overall picture of the vision can be broken up and split into individual components.

The PHVision augmented reality experience at the ExpoReal 2017

The first big mile- and touchstone of the PHVision augmented reality experience was its public presentation at 2017’s ExpoReal in Munich. The trade fair for real estate & investment is the largest of its kind in Europe. That year it attracted over 40,000 attendees from 75 countries. More than 1200 visitors found their way to the urban innovation forum, at the centre of which the communication of PHVision stood this year. The central element of the communications strategy was the PHVision augmented reality experience we have developed in cooperation with our partner KontextKommunikation.

Dominic wearing the Hololens

Several hundred visitors were guided through the holographic city quarters of PHVision with help from 6 HoloLenses. The visual navigation concept we designed was then validated by the many users’ psositive experience. Because we assumed a large number of visitors at the booth in advance, we have calculated three minutes per session and user. Due to the still little-known control concept of HoloLens and their for many users unfamiliar gesture control, which usually has to be taught, we have renounced the use of complex gesture and voice control. The success proved us right: less is sometimes more.

Alexander Knapstein from INSPIRATIONlabs and Karl Zillig from IBA Heidelberg using the Hololens

Explorers of undiscovered lands

Which parts of PHVision will be realized, which ones discarded? Something big will emerge, that much seems certain. It’s also certain, that there will be changes to the overall vision and not every daring concept or hologram of PHVision will be implemented in the urban planning. Regardless of what will become of the former conversion areas, PHVision did already clearly show us one thing: Our decision to enter augmented reality development whilst relying on the HoloLens was thoroughly confirmed by the project. “The future is an undiscovered country” claims the similairly subtitled sixth Star Trek feature film. With the help of augmented reality part of Star Trek’s forecast becomes reality and it seems as though the HoloLens gave us access to undiscovered lands and/or countries as of today. It’s a look at the future. An obvious board hint in regards to the direction the development of technology, communication and society will take… The answers however are not yet set in stone. Those will be the result of the questions we ask today.

What does the future of urbanity look like?

How do we want to work, communicate and live?

What will become of us?

We are all invited to co-design those and other questions and their answers. These are exciting times! Let’s go for it! More about Augmented Reality can be found here!

Making Of