Technology now enables local authorities to show citizens and potential incomers their plans for the future of the town. The City of Laval is using augmented reality to attract interest.

The Laval Virtual Conference and Exhibition is taking place for the 15th year running on 20-24 March. Ahead of the event, representatives of the City of Laval and the surrounding conurbation – in the Mayenne department, about 300 kilometers south-west of Paris – took us through their virtual reality projections of the future city, which will be presented during the conference. Following the departure of the 42nd Army Signals Corps from Laval, the town now has the opportunity of re-developing the 50 hectares which have been freed up. The local authorities are now offering the townspeople a preview of how this new part of town might look. Laurent Chrétien, Director of the Laval Virtual Conference and Exhibition and head of the virtual city project, explained to L'Atelier that “low interactive tables and a mobile application will be provided, enabling the conference attendees and visitors to obtain an augmented reality overview of the project, which is scheduled to take shape by September 2015”.

Taking a (virtual) peek

Laurent Chrétien explained that the surfaces of the interactive tables, measuring around 1.5 meters along the side, will display an aerial photo, either of the Ferrié district, where the Signals Corps used to be based, or the historic centre of Laval. Visitors to Laval Virtual will be able to download a free app on to their personal mobiles or use tablet devices equipped with the app provided by the town. “All they’ll have to do is to pass the mobile device over one of the photos, and the virtual models will appear, section by section, on the tablet screen.” Printed cards with these photos will be handed out for visitors to take away so that they can download the app and re-study the virtual city plans whenever they like. After the conference, maps and apps will continue to be obtainable from the Laval Tourist Office.

Attracting innovative businesses

The virtual reality project has several goals. In the first place, the authorities are making use of this advanced technology to give the people of Laval a clearer view of their plans for the city’s future. However, it is also hoped that this approach will have some business value for the town as well. Laurent Chrétien points out that a major objective of the Conference and Exhibition is to “attract businesses to come and set up in Laval”. As the town district being re-developed will in large part be devoted to new technologies and innovative products and services, in line with the concept of the conference, the whole virtual reality approach makes sense. Sectors with a strong marketing bias are likely to be most attracted since, as recent articles on this site have illustrated, augmented reality is being increasingly used to promote online shopping.

By Kathleen Comte