The recent advancement in smart cities and IoT technologies increased the need in the development of cutting-edge Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) applications. Although these technologies are parallel, they are not similar. VR technology is used when a projection of the real world is generated by the computer, and includes the user interaction in the designed environment. Depending on the degree of immersion, the user can interact with objects from the simulated world, or be just a simple spectator and experiment realistically the visual and auditory elements. Furthermore, the VR gives users the access to specific experiences that we would be difficult to access in reality.
Instead of VR, the AR technology allow users to see or perceive a virtual world generated by the computer, integrated into reality. The “real world” is the environment that the user can be an observer, and can “see” through his own senses. The virtual world is defined as a generated, stored and calculated environment using a processor. An AR monitoring system records virtual elements within the real world in order to integrate virtual and real-world information so that the observer can use them.
Through the above-mentioned technologies, a large number of applications can be adapted and integrated in the development of Smart Cities digital twins. It represents an ideal environment for deploying VR and AR solutions for designing and simulating different layers. One of the layers can be represented by the 3D urban planning and modelling. The significant roles of AR and VR technologies are targeting real-time simulations and visualization requirements used in a smart city.
The gaming engines have become flexible tools for developing VR applications due to its ability to meet the requirements of a VR-performing applications such us 3D modelling of smart cities. The game engines contain a list of features including high-quality rendering capability, physical simulations, real-time lighting, code editing, and real-time performance generators / editors. There are currently a few high-performance engines available, and the most preferred solution is Unity3D. This engine has been identified as the preference of independent developers and gaming enthusiasts, due to a combination of capabilities and accessibility.
A successful VR application of 3D urban design using Unity 3D should provide accurate visualization that is realistic and validated for further designs and also, should convince audience about its viability. This can contribute to the concept of strategic planning of smart cities, and motivate public authorities and private companies to participate in policy processes and initiatives for a sustainable urban growth.
The game engine Unity3D saves time and avoids a great number of issues in writing code, offers productivity and workflow features. It contributes in the development of planning houses and levels, constructions and streets, can support digital services, use open data and integrate different sensors in order to interact with the environment.
In conclusion, the using of VR, AR and game engines in designing smart cities can produce high-quality digital infrastructure capable to assess and create ideas in real time, and within a 3D space, during the design and planning phase. Also, can provide effective communication among the communities, that lead to a strategic and sustainable planning. Nevertheless, can contribute in saving a significant amount of time, funds and resources.