Like other fields, spatial planning has changed alot since augmented reality and in particular Pokémon Go came on the scene. To provide some general examples; Tourism has seen more brainstorming sessions than ever before. National and cyber security has been given yet more reasons to remain on guard. Virtual reality has been forced to take a reality check. And parenthood, a field which often struggles to get offspring outside into the fresh air, has been given a reason to rejoice.
For the spatial planning profession a new dimension has opened up and the industry would benefit greatly from adopting a startup mentality and culture is if it is to engage in the 'augmented' world.
This is by no means an impossible task. Planners already possess the integrated mindset required for this new process. They know about alot about public services, economic development, urban design, natural resource management and a range of other topics. Considerations regarding sustainability, inclusiveness and engagement are never far from their minds and planning skills such as enforcement, regulation and development control are integral to their daily duties.
Controlling the Pokémon creatures should be no problem at all…
It is the way of thinking about the technology and information which needs to change. The value of straight-forward administrative, infrastructural and environmental datasets needs to be reconsidered and this data needs to be used to inform future augmented reality related decision-making. A starting point would be to explore the in-house and public datasets which are available to them and this will require them to work with GIS and IT departments and other data custodians. It will also require them to ask a lot of questions.
“Which data can we use for operational purposes and which ones are licence restricted or redundant?”.....“Who created this dataset and how accurate is it?”.....“Do we have the tools necessary for analysing the data and how will we integrate it into our decision-making processes?”
Now is the time for the spatial planner, the world's lesser-known superhero, to develop their Poké-powers and confront the new geospatial reality.
“Once quiet residential area now a battleground?” “I’m on it!”...... “Zoning change required to allow refreshment shop near a PokéGym? Consider it done!”...... “Public space inaccessible to disabled persons? “Not on my watch!”......“Pokemon located near a dangerous road junction? Get me Niantic's contact details!”......“Kids not enjoying amenities in the local park? Let's get a Pokéstop in there!”
Augmented reality is not, as many people will argue, a bad thing. If looked at the right way it’s a great thing. The most important thing to realise though is that different skillsets and toolsets are required to create the right physical and cultural environment for augmented reality - new policies, new guidelines and new ways of engaging and collaborating with gamers, communities and stakeholders.
It’s going to be an adjustment and it won’t be easy. Planners will have to dive into the rabbit hole that is the geospatial world and familiarise themselves with terms such as geofencing, geodatabases and geotagging. One thing that is certain however is that the effort will be worth it and that planning will be a better discipline as a result.
Exciting times ahead.