Augmented reality app helping Belfast residents develop shared vision for future

  • Date

    Mon 27 Apr 20

A new augmented reality app, developed in partnership with the University of Essex, could allow whole communities to collaboratively design their future, by sharing ideas about how to improve where they live and work.

The app, called Shared Futures, uses a unique combination of realistic and imaginative 3D mapping and an interactive commenting system to allow residents to view and discuss their area as it is now, alongside what they feel it needs for the future.

Funded by Northern Ireland’s Executive Office and the University of Essex, the app was developed in collaboration with Essex Business School, the Belfast Interface Project, Cobra Collective UK and the technology co-operative, Animorph.

The app is about to be trialed by two communities in Belfast.

Professor Peter Bloom, from Essex Business School, said: “This is about empowering people to shape their future from the palm of their hand. Shared Futures is a tool for enhancing community collaboration and participatory governance locally – and potentially globally.

“The pilot project in Belfast was inspired by the desire to discover engaging ways to help bring together populations still divided by peace walls. Through being able to imaginatively explore and comment on a map of their current area and what it could look like in the future, this app provides an important new space for collectively empowering residents.”

“Specifically, the app allows users to explore a 3D present and future map of their community, with the ability to zoom in and walk the streets, or zoom out and take a bird’s eye view. They can also drag icons and post comments on any of the highlighted areas located in the map.

“Finally they can respond to each other’s comments, enabling them to work together.”

Shared Futures is the first step in a broader project aimed at creating a Community Planning Toolkit. In addition to the University of Essex, the Belfast Interface Project, Animorph, The Open University and the Cobra Collective UK are all working on this.

The toolkit will include a website and an offline hub for local consultation and collaboration.

Find out more by visiting the project website at

Download the app for free at the Google Play Store or the Apple Store.

Also see:

Research from Essex Business School

All research Centres and Institutes at the University of Essex