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Thanks, Sydney, for expanding on ideas of design in urban health promotion. I found your inclusion of Pokémon Go and ideas of augmented reality particularly interesting, and would like to expand further here on this concept of active engagement with the city through smartphone technology.

The case study of the Pokémon Go phenomenon is one worthy of further analysis to evaluate the potentials of this new technology. Its sudden and widespread popularity sparked debate and made it a focus of extensive research. It is undeniable that this app had a huge influence on health, with one study finding that the number of participants reaching their recommended daily activity levels doubled to 75% after downloading the app (Wagner-Greene, V. 2017: 35).

However, this same study highlighted the dangers of this technology. Over a quarter of respondents reported themselves as likely to play while driving and 31.5% said the same for paying more attention to the app than their surroundings. The high risk of phone usage during driving is self-explanatory; however, alongside this possibility for accidents, the idea of people paying more attention to the app is an issue of urban design as well. While it does encourage activity, if people are engaging with their phones rather than their environment the risk of social isolation and the mental health issues that can stem from this are very real and must be addressed if these technologies are to truly aid in urban health.  (It is worth noting here that for those who were already almost totally socially isolated, Pokémon Go has shown to have positive implications for getting them out the house and interacting) (Kim, J. 2016).

Pokémon Go certainly highlighted how AR can encourage activity within the urban environment and provide health benefits. However, while it puts the game into the environment; it is not directly related to its locality causing a disconnect between the game and the real world, I believe this to be the key issue with the app with regards to urban health and is due to the global scale of the app limiting its local relevancy.

In my opinion, the next step is to find ways to integrate this technology seamlessly into the city, so that the experience of AR is not simply looking down at your smartphone, but having the technology more fully integrate with the environment. It is this basis in locality that for me makes this phone-based software an issue of urban design, AR should enhance the urban environment, but from behind the scenes rather than as the main focal point. There are some examples of this currently being developed, for example Google Maps extending its software to integrate into an AR display so routes and locations can quickly be displayed, however this retains the lack of place specificity.

Google Maps

By including the potential of AR into the initial design of an area, Urban Designers can create dynamic links between the real and the virtual to enhance the user experience of an area rather than detract from it as seen in Pokémon Go, and it is when this link is established that I believe AR will be able to truly improve Urban Health.


References:

Cirulis, A. and Brigmanis, K. (2013). 3D Outdoor Augmented Reality for Architecture and Urban Planning. Procedia Computer Science, 25, pp.71-79.

Curtin, G. (2017). Smart Cities Council | Six ways augmented reality can help you see more clearly. [online] Smartcitiescouncil.com. Available at: https://smartcitiescouncil.com/article/six-ways-augmented-reality-can-help-you-see-more-clearly [Accessed 17 Jan. 2019].

Goldsmith, S. and Bousquet, C. (2018). How AR Can Transform the Way Cities Work. [online] Citylab.com. Available at: https://www.citylab.com/perspective/2018/08/ar-is-transforming-tech-what-can-it-do-for-cities/566618/ [Accessed 17 Jan. 2019].

Kim, J. (2016). How Pokemon Go Helps Mental Health. [online] Psychology Today. Available at: https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/culture-shrink/201612/how-pokemon-go-helps-mental-health [Accessed 17 Jan. 2019].

Wagner-Greene, V., Wotring, A., Castor, T., Kruger, J., Mortemore, S. and Dake, J. (2017). Pokémon GO: Healthy or Harmful?. American Journal of Public Health, 107(1), pp.35-36.

School of Architecture
Planning and Landscape
Newcastle upon Tyne
Tyne and Wear, NE1 7RU

Tel: 0191 208 6509

Email: nicola.rutherford@ncl.ac.uk


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