inCitu Midtown Manhattan Pilot: Results & Learnings
inCitu’s AR-powered city planning App is finally out-and-about, and we could not be more excited about our learnings from our first pilot
This May (2021), inCitu was used by designers, policymakers, and the public to assess a possible future massing for the surrounding area of Penn Station, by showcasing a proposal to relocate Madison Square Garden on-site, in Augmented Reality.
Previous Post: detailed Manhattan Pilot background can be found here
How did the inCitu Midtown Manhattan Pilot come to life?
In January 2021, Manhattan Community Board Five (CB5) voted to advance plans for a massive undertaking in Midtown, involving the relocation of Madison Square Garden’s Sports Facility.
CB5 members chose to use inCitu to assess the masses, by visualizing them in augmented reality, on-site, in their urban context. Through this, they also assess the platform and its ability to improve decision-making in planning.
We engaged the public through our platform, allowing residents and other stakeholders to explore the proposal and the app, and weigh in their opinion on it.
This video provides detailed documentation and verbal testimonials of the on-site pilot: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e244g8alZQA
For a week, our volunteers engaged with residents, police officers, real-estate developers, and passers-by, inviting them to download the inCituAR app on their phones by scanning the QR code.
Users were able to view a 3D rendering of the new Madison Square Garden through Augmented Reality on their own phone.
inCitu Midtown Manhattan Pilot: numbers & learnings
Overall, we had 56 downloads of the inCituAR app, 42 replied to our demographic survey, we conducted 21 user interviews on-site and 11 more interested people gave us their emails. Most importantly — the technology worked! People raised their phones and viewed in AR the future of that street. And it looked AMAZING.
We’ve learned A TON. key takeaways below:
- We could not ignore the “WOW” effect at the moment of the AR showing up. Our assumption about AR making people seamlessly understand proposals in their urban context was proven right.
- The project detail page was important to people to further understand the proposed project. By the time they came to comment through the app and/or interview with us, their feedback was valuable and to the point.
- The comment + raise voice features closed the loop of creating a clear and effective path for participation in planning.
- The easy understanding + weighing in one’s opinion resulted in diversifying the audience of participants (see more below)
- All people want more data! How tall is the building? What will it be used for? What types of businesses will be here? How will it affect pedestrian+car traffic? Where will the people who live and work here go? << some of the questions that we’ve been asked.
One of the most important things for us to test in this pilot was whether our tool and process truly broadens and diversifies participation in planning processes. To track that, upon downloading the inCituAR app, users were referred to an in-app survey to help us track participation.
We got younger, mixed-income, mixed-education level and more renters than the classic participants in city planning. Compared to the common type of participants in planning hearings and community meetings (old, white, affluent, male, homeowners) — this is a dramatic change and could draw much richer, more representative picture of the public sentiment, needs and concerns.
complete report of the pilot can be found here
“I’ve seen so much change here. This is the first time someone is asking me what I think.”
— Lucy, traffic policewoman who has been working at the corner of 34th/7th for 29 years
“Of course I’ll use this app, sharing my opinion is literally a click away.”
— Michael, renter who lives near the site, never participated in planning processes before