Using Augmented Reality in Urban Design (4.52)

Dr Mark Billinghurst and his team at the University of Canterbury’s HIT Lab are developing an augmented reality (AR) engine for mobile devices.

The AR platform is particularly relevant in the context of the re-build of Christchurch following the devastating earthquakes. Christchurch City Council recently used the HIT Lab’s AR platform to publicly launch its plans for the re-development of Christchurch CBD. In simple terms, the AR platform allows a citizen to stand at street level, stream re-development plans and other spatial information to their mobile phone and superimpose the new design over existing features and buildings – thereby obtaining a true to life visualisation of redevelopment plans and impact.

Feedback can be collected from users to gauge public opinion on planning and development proposals. This novel and exciting integration of spatial information and technologies applies not just in Christchurch but in any new development scenario. The work at the HIT Lab promises to drive broader adoption of spatial information technologies, especially when the software is made available via the Android app store in the near future.


A mobile AR application named “CCDU 3D” has been developed for visualizing the buildings in Christchurch based on the city rebuild plan. The app is available from the Google Play store for free download.

The first version of a server application for the mobile AR software was completed and user studies finished. A second, improved version of the server is now being evaluated.

Michael Partridge has completed his thesis, and two papers have been published in conference proceedings.

There has been commercial adoption of the technology, firstly a Goldfields Explorer app for Bendigo and secondly a High street stories app, for the NZ Historic Places Trust.

Project Overview

Gun Lee at CRCSI 2012 [13min]

This is software that runs on a smart phone that allows people to see virtual content superimposed over the real world

Project Participants

Christchurch City Council  -  University of Canterbury  -  ZNO ltd