Culver City, Calif., Uses AR to Showcase Stormwater Project

Culver City, Calif., and Trigger XR have teamed up to enhance a stormwater project by adding an interactive augmented reality experience.

Government agencies have been seeing the value of augmented and virtual reality for improved training and accessibility in recent years. Now, governments are launching innovative projects to help educate and engage residents — from a project in Charlotte, NC, that revives razed Black neighborhoods to efforts to animate parks in Buffalo, NY, and Fairfax, Va.

For Culver City, an infrastructure project’s signage will bring the project to life with an augmented reality experience that educates the public on both the project itself and the city’s history.

THE INFRASTRUCTURE COMPONENT

The infrastructure project, the Culver Boulevard Realignment and Stormwater Capture Project, has two main components. Essentially, the stormwater project consists of an underground water reservoir, where water is treated and stored before being filtered and discharged back into the storm drain system. The project enables treatment of stormwater to advance the city’s water sustainability initiatives and protect Ballona Creek and Santa Monica Bay.

In addition to the stormwater component, the city has worked to improve mobility for pedestrians and bicyclists with the creation of a two-acre park in the median. This is part of a larger effort to widen Culver Boulevard. An added benefit of the stormwater project is that the treated stormwater will also be used as irrigation for the park above.

Image shows a Culver City stormwater project in augmented reality over grass.

The infrastructure project’s total cost was about $20 million and construction started in February 2020. The city came together with the West Basin Municipal Water District for an event in June 2022 to unveil the project to the public.

But as is the case with many infrastructure projects, a large portion of the action would happen out of sight, motivating the project team to include “interpretive signage” that explains the purpose of the project through an interactive, virtual experience, Sean Singletary, the city’s senior civil engineer, explained in a written response.

ADDING AUGMENTED REALITY SIGNAGE

The AR experience will soon be available to visitors, who will be able to learn about the project by reading the information on the signs — printed in both Spanish and English — or by scanning the QR code to get deeper.

There are six different “experiences” in augmented reality that users can participate in. In one experience, users can visualize the stormwater project that exists beneath their feet or watch images of the city’s history float past them as if they were walking through a museum. Another features a turtle that is native to Ballona Creek, which will swim around users as informational text boxes about the turtle’s history and keeping the creek clean pop up to enhance the experience.

Image shows a Culver City augmented reality experience featuring a red-eared slider turtle swimming over grass.

Image shows a Culver City augmented reality experience featuring a red-eared slider turtle swimming over grass.

“Integrated with the physical elements of the educational outreach, the technological approaches should deepen the overall educational experience, drawing in visitors to explore the median park while being attractive and informative,” Singletary explained.

To design the experience, the city wanted to partner with a consultant to determine the best creative approach to the technology, Singletary explained. Ultimately, the city chose to partner with Trigger XR and the approval to move forward with this company was granted by the City Council in October 2020.

As he detailed, Trigger helped the city realize its vision by integrating feedback from the city’s historian, stakeholders and elected officials.

“Our task was to educate the population in Culver City about this project and about Culver City as a whole,” said Gabriel Wyatt, the Trigger XR client producer who led the development for this project.

To achieve this, there were several topics of focus for the project: history, water, culture and ecology, and mobility.

Image shows a Culver City augmented reality exhibit about mobility in the city over grass.  The text reads “EXISTING BIKEWAYS” and “The Culver Boulevard Bike Path located in a median park in Culver City and Los Angeles can be enjoyed by bicyclists and E-scooters.”

Image shows a Culver City augmented reality exhibit about mobility in the city over grass.

The collaborative design process included the city’s team providing information, and the Trigger XR team creating imagery to accompany it. Wyatt said his team pitched a variety of concepts to the city, which led to the six experiences that were ultimately selected.

Soon, visitors will be able to scan the QR code from one of the four different informational signs (focused on city history, water, mobility and ecology) to experience the augmented reality at the site of the project. In the meantime, the experiences can be accessed online.

Leave a Comment