UC mobile phone app helps people see the CBD as it used to be

University of Canterbury developers of a mobile phone application that allows people to see the city as it was will be showing the 'app' to visitors to Re:START in Cashel Mall this weekend (10-11 December). Andrew Dean, a UC student, has been hired by the UC CEISMIC project to source additional content for the 'app', augmenting it with culturally significant images and text.


CityViewAR is an Augmented Reality (AR) application that allows people to see photos, text and 3D models of buildings as they used to be before the 4 September 2010 earthquake in Christchurch.

CityViewAR was created by staff and students of HIT Lab NZ (the Human Interface Technology Laboratory) at the University of Canterbury and is a free application for Android phones and iPhones (3GS model or later). Visitors to Re:START on 10-11 December will be able to try the application on mobile phones and tablets supplied by Vodafone.

"Following the earthquakes, many buildings in the inner city have been demolished to make way for reconstruction," said the HIT Lab NZ's Director Professor Mark Billinghurst.

"Even for people who have lived in Christchurch all their lives it is difficult to walk through the city and remember what buildings used to be there. Using CityViewAR people can see virtual 3D models of what buildings looked like pre-earthquake."

Using an Android mobile phone or an iPhone, people can walk around the city and see life-sized virtual models of what the buildings looked like on site before they were demolished, and see pictures and written information with more details about the building. The application also has a map view showing where all the buildings are on a city map, and also a simple list view of all the available content. Hundreds of 3D models of key city buildings have been made available from architect Jason Mill of ZNO, while the Christchurch City Council and Historic Places Trust have provided photographs and building histories.

CityViewAR is based on the HIT Lab NZ's Outdoor AR platform that uses the GPS and compass sensors of mobile phones to enable virtual information to be overlaid on live video of the real world. People who are not in Christchurch can still see the content as if they were there by using the application to send fake GPS data.

"Outdoor AR makes it easy for developers to build their own mobile AR applications. The software was previously used for showing individual buildings, but this is the first time that it has been used to show dozens of buildings at once, and the first time in the world that mobile phone AR has been used for earthquake reconstruction.

"Eventually the app will be developed so that users can add their own feedback on the buildings shown. This means that architects and urban planners can use the tool to get input from people about their designs."

Professor Billinghurst said that there are many developments on the horizon that could be of use to city planners and personnel in emergency response situations.

"Future work on the app will allow users to add their own feedback on the buildings shown, so architects and urban planners can use the tool to get input from people about their proposed designs. Additional historical data could be included to allow people to go back in time and see what used to be at locations 50 or 100 years ago.

"It is also anticipated that the system could be connected to more traditional GIS viewing software, to enable other data sets to be shown, such as utility information. Ongoing research could lead to a mobile AR platform that could be quickly deployed in response to a natural disaster and provide invaluable on-site information."

The CityViewAR app can be downloaded free using QR codes on postcards that will be handed out at Re:START in Cashel Mall this weekend (10-11 December) between 10am and 4pm by Vodafone and University of Canterbury representatives.

The application can also be downloaded from the Android Market by searching for CityViewAR or through the following link: https://market.android.com/details?id=com.hitlabnz.equar.

Go to http://www.hitlabnz.org/cityviewar for more information about CityViewAR and for instructions on how to download the app for Android and iPhone devices.