Verizon Media’s award-winning production studio RYOT announced the launch of the LA River AR (Augmented Reality) Platform – an interactive, immersive experience, created to provide community access to the information driving Los Angeles River revitalization efforts in Los Angeles County and show the history, present-day impacts and potential solutions the LA River can provide communities. Through a free, mobile AR app available to all, the immersive tool will provide access to millions of people living within LA River’s reach and beyond with stories on the River’s detailed past, intricate complexities and potential to thrive. River LA will use this platform as a community engagement tool to highlight the demographics of the river communities, benefits of sustainable mobility transit and the importance of flood control for the LA River basin communities.
The first phase of the LA River AR Platform will provide the viewer with a mobile experience that paints a macro-view of the 51-mile-long LA River community, packed with information, perspective and background on the river itself, as well as its effect on the communities which surround it. Utilizing a wide range of publically accessible information from River LA’s LA River Index, the US census, collected community survey information and data visualizations, the LA River AR Platform immerses the viewer into the experience, providing contextual layers as the River ebbs and flows between neighborhoods.
The AR tool was created to drive interest in the project, create empathy for members of changing communities and showcase what can be achieved in AR when artfulness, education and functionality meet. In addition to the AR app, RYOT has also rolled out a WebAR preview, which can be experienced on Yahoo, through the recently launched Verizon Media Immersive – the largest online XR platform for editorial content and advertising powered by 5G. As 5G continues to expand, this opens up substantial opportunities for the use of immersive platforms in education and empowers communities to have a more direct impact on their city.
“Creating experiences that give consumers the agency to act on their curiosity and ultimately experience wonder through the powerful combination of story and technology has always been at the core of RYOT’s mission,” said Jake Sally, Head of Development at Verizon Media’s RYOT. “The LA River AR Platform invites the public into the future through their familiar mobile device, allowing them to experience firsthand how technology can be a meaningful and efficient engine to drive important societal changes taking place in their own backyard.”
“We are at a crucial time culturally where we need to start shifting education away from the traditional ‘stare-at-front-and-listen-to-teacher’ approach and into a system that empowers students and embraces a diversity of perspectives and experiences, not just one,” said Jessica Brillhart, Founder of Vrai Pictures. “This kind of capability is inherent in immersive technologies, like augmented reality, that are emerging. By leveraging something like AR, we can encourage each person to learn by doing – to engage with a subject freely, to allow her to challenge a line of thought, to question a ‘fact,’ to poke at an idea, to look to a little to the left or right of what’s front-and-center, to own her experience and create a bond with what’s there.”
“Social equity, environmental justice, and equitable development are core tenets for our team at River LA. To accomplish these goals, the traditional public engagement efforts of the past need technological advances like the LA River AR Platform to reach the one million people that live within the mile of the river, which are primarily people of color. For community members living along the Los Angeles River, the revitalization efforts are not an everyday concern for them. Affordability, homelessness, and now the coronavirus pandemic are priorities and rightfully so. It is our hope that this platform can be used to reach people that would not typically have access to the LA River and share the baseline understanding of how the river’s revitalization could improve LA River community residents’ quality of life,” said Jason Foster, Director of Strategic Partnerships at River LA. “By making the LA River project more accessible, River LA hopes to grow the number of people eager to participate in conversations and community meetings taking place to improve this public resource, the Los Angeles River, and become a model for future public investments in infrastructure and adaptive reuse projects that could potentially happen as the country shifts into recovery from COVID-19.
Through RYOT’s partnership with River LA, VRAI Pictures and Superbright, the project has convened talented media entities and respected organizations to build a most intricate and accurate representation of the LA River. Visualizations within the platform are supported by data and research in the public-facing LA River Index, including data relating to Flood Risk Management, Water Recharge, Water Quality, Greenhouse Gases, Ecology & Habitat, Open Space & Parks, Public Health & Social Equity, Transportation, and Arts & Culture. River LA partnered with Gehry Partners, OLIN and Geosyntec in 2016 to compile 25 years of research, completed by other organizations, to create a free resource the public can use to evaluate river projects and capture the intersections that constitute a revitalized LA River, which is now conveyed through the LA River AR Platform experience.