Blog: Looking ahead – Virtual Reality for community engagement

07 May 2020

Giving people a virtual tour of a new development, including how a landscape will look after a wind farm is built, makes engaging with communities and stakeholders all the more ‘real’ says Innovision founder, John Flanagan.

At Innovision we are known for our LVIA visualisation services including photomontage and visibility mapping. More recently however, we have launched our Virtual Reality (VR) service, using real location imagery to display photomontages of proposed developments.

There are real benefits to using VR visualisation, especially in large-scale projects such as wind farms, road design and power transmission routes. 

Innovision image for blog

 

Many large projects are difficult for people to comprehend or visualise, even with the paper-based print visualisation in front of them. The VR headsets immerse them in the location and show them the real impact of the development and, in many cases, the impact is smaller than they imagined.

Securing planning for wind energy projects is a long and difficult process and community engagement is crucial to its success. With our VR visualisation, developers can give communities a real sense of what the proposed project will look like, gaining their trust from the start.

Engagement during COVID-19

In an effort to combat the added challenges around social distancing the team has come up with a new way for developers to engage during lockdown.

We have developed a ‘virtual public consultation’ tool to allow developers to host some sort of public consultation event while it is currently not possible to do so. We would hope that this service would also complement physical public consultation events once they are back up and running.

The tool allows people who are not able to attend a particular event for whatever reason (in this particular case the COVID-19 crisis) to view all relevant information pertaining to a particular development from the comfort of their own home.

It is set up in a unique 3D virtual environment to make it as intuitive and user-friendly as possible. The room can be laid out in whatever way the developer wishes and can display info posters, banners, videos, documents or any other information that they may wish to communicate with stakeholders.

In addition to this, there can be a facility to fill out questionnaires, query forms or to contact developers directly.

The link below, which was set up for demonstration purposes (with the information contained referring mainly to Innovision products or services in this instance), gives you an idea of what it might look like. https://www.innovision.ie/viewer

When restrictions have been lifted and social distancing allows, the VR system will be back in action with appropriate safety measures in place.

By using Virtual Reality tours developers can engage with the community right from the start and demonstrate their commitment to community engagement.

This new method of displaying photomontages using VR headsets allows users to immerse themselves in a full 360º view of the current landscape.

It also allows the user to switch between the current landscape and the same view with the proposed project in place. I believe it provides a real sense of what the final development will look like and can often allay concerns.

This new approach to visualisation is changing the way proposers of projects, such as wind farms, can fully engage with the local community, putting the project on a firm footing from the start.

Innovision is all about making large developments easier for the public to comprehend with more user-friendly experiences to get the relevant information out there. This, we feel, helps projects get off on the right foot, providing a smoother community engagement process.