Extended Reality (XR)

Extended Reality (XR) refers to all technologies combining real and virtual environment, enhancing human and computer interaction. Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), and Mixed Reality (MR) are three representative forms of XR technologies. AR refers to This is also a method to encourage citizens to participate in planning process, since vivid and realistic view of the plan can help to narrow down the gap between the reality after plan’s implementation and citizens’ expectations. By having a better understanding of planning projects, citizens can make a more rational and informed decisions in public participation process.





Basic Information on the Method
Mode of communication
Face-to-face, Online, Both
Group size
6-30, 31 and more
Geographical scale
Public space, Neighbourhood
Skills required
Basic, Average
Resources needed
Medium, High
Level of Involvement
Level of involvement
Inform, Consult
Type of knowledge enabled
Convergence (Broad public), Convergence - Small groups
Additional Criteria
Planning phase
Planning & Design
Methodological approach

How to use the method

Model building and transposing

Firstly, a 3D model or virtual layers should be built for the target site with dedicated software, then transposed to VR/AR/MR software to enable the models/layers being showcased in VR/AR/MR hardware.

Instructions for use and safety training

Adequate instructions of how to explore in the model, how to turn on/off different layers in the model should be provided to the participants. In the case of using VR equipment, safety issues are not rare. Due to the immersivity, users may forget the physical surrounding of them and  have the hazard of stumbling and running into objects nearby. Sometimes virtual reality devices can also cause nausea and dizziness. Therefore, if an organizer is providing venue and equipment, safety training and a second person who is acting as a spotter is recommended.

Showcase and data/proposal collection

This method can not only be used for demonstrating “how a future plan will look like after implementation”, but also allowing participants to explore, mark up, create, and design in the virtual environment. With AR, participants visit the study area with a phone/tablet, through which they can see information about the area and how alternative plans will look like. With VR, participants explore the virtual environment using a VR headset in a special venue or in their own place if they have the required devices. This method can be combined with other participatory planning methods such Digital Walkthrough, Decision Theatre and Participatory 3D Design, etc.

Data collection and storage

After the showcase, the information and data created by participants should be collected and stored for futher planning process.

What are the outcomes

  • Virtual environment of the target area
  • Different scenarios building, editing, and comparing
  • Scenes simulation
  • Impact evaluation

Skills required

Skills: basic, average

  • Skills of operating VR/AR devices
  • knowledge and skills to explore and create designs/plans in the virtual environment

Resources needed

Resources: medium, high

  • Resources to provide devices and venue
  • experts and resources to build 3D models of the target area using VR/AR software

Strengths and weaknesses

  • Intuitive experience: “What you see is what you get.” Participants do not have to read floor plans or 2D maps to imagine a 3D environment. This can help to lower the threshold of participating.
  • Immersive experience (VR): Participants can explore the environment from their point of view without being physically on site.
  • Real-time feedback: Changes in the virtual environment can be seen immediately. Participants and planners can see the expected outcomes before implementation.
  • Lower cost (money and time) for plan/design modification compared to rebuilding after implementation.
  • Improving experience: With AR, the additional information in the virtual layer improves the experience on site.
  • Demanding devices (for VR)
  • High-performance computer needed to support the VR devices

Use cases

Augmented Urbans
The Augmented Urbans project was implemented in collaboration with 4 countries in Baltic Sea region (Estonia, Finland, Latvia, and Sweden). This project explored and utilized AR, VR, and MR technologies to support urban planning processes, to improve stakeholder participation and link long-term visions with short-term actions to provide high level of expertise to Central Baltic cities. In the framework of the project, five integrated urban management plans were developed to aid Central Baltic cities to become more resilient and sustainable.


Try one of these tools & resources

  1. Allen, M., Regenbrecht, H., & Abbott, M. (2011, November). Smart-phone augmented reality for public participation in urban planning. In Proceedings of the 23rd Australian computer-human interaction conference (pp. 11-20).
  2. Angelini, C., Williams, A. S., Kress, M., Vieira, E. R., D'Souza, N., Rishe, N. D., ... & Ortega, F. R. (2020). City planning with augmented reality. arXiv preprint arXiv:2001.06578.
  3. Cirulis, A., & Brigmanis, K. B. (2013). 3D outdoor augmented reality for architecture and urban planning. Procedia Computer Science, 25, 71-79.
  4. https://www.autodesk.com/autodesk-university/zh-hans/forge-content/au_class-urn%3Aadsk.content%3Acontent%3A1b43c121-b703-47ac-8949-b4225335d10c#video