Bridging the visualisation gap – using augmented reality to show the next generation of railway footbridges
Use of AR – a first for Network Rail – puts architects’ designs into passengers’ smartphones.
Network Rail has contributed its design data to an app that enables passengers to use augmented reality (AR) to see replacement footbridges at stations. The app will support Network Rail’s engagement with passengers while delivering footbridges across the network throughout Control Period 6 (1 April 2019 – 31 March 2024) and beyond.
The app, called ARki and developed by Darf Design, provides 3D visualisations of planned buildings in situ. Thanks to the collaboration with Network Rail and Wood, ARki now incorporates the footbridges, helping passengers and local communities see their future as Network Rail rolls out its new generation of signature footbridges. Available in the Apple app store from 16 October, the app’s cutting edge AR technology gives Network Rail a new level of engagement with rail users.
Network Rail has developed three footbridge designs that blend forward-thinking architecture with creative engineering, bringing a new level of quality and a distinctive identity as the current, standard model is replaced in the years ahead. The three designs are:
- The Beacon – a fully glazed bridge featuring lantern-topped lift towers and a dynamic articulated engineered structure
- The Ribbon – an update of the classic arched footbridge with an elegant floating canopy spanning the track, featuring 30-degree lift and stair rotations
- The Frame – a radical expression of minimalism that offers a range of flexible, functional configurations. Winner of the Network Rail and Royal Institute of British Architects (Riba) footbridge design competition of 2018, this design by Gottlieb Paludan Architects of Denmark was judged best among 120 entries from 19 countries.
“The app will give our customers a glimpse of their future station, using new technology to give a level of detail we’ve never provided before,” said Anthony Dewar, professional head, buildings and architecture at Network Rail. “As well as keeping local people informed of changes to their station, it provides a fitting, high-tech showcase for our exciting new footbridge designs. We’re very proud of the three new designs and want as many people as possible to be aware of and appreciate them – the app is the perfect way to showcase the footbridges to as large an audience as possible.”
The app integrates the architects’ design files into a smartphone’s video footage through ARKi. “Our vision is to allow designers to share their 3D models in the real world,” says Sahar Fikouhi, founder of interactive design studio Darf Design and developer of ARki – recently shortlisted as one of the 10 companies to join Digital Catapult’s Augmentor programme, which is helping to accelerate UK investment in immersive technologies such as AR.
“It’s very rare for the public to have this access to genuine architects’ drawings and this is one of the first examples of one-to-one scale visualisations of future projects. The app is helping to democratise the way structures are designed and built by giving the public this access at early stages of design selection,” added Fikouhi.
Wood has taken on the role of technology integrator, building on their work with Network Rail and in stakeholder engagement. “Wood is proud to assist Network Rail in its mission of engaging the public during introduction of high quality design and engineering into its estate through this transparent process. The integration of such technologies for our clients helps keep all interested parties engaged,” says Charles Humphries, Director – Built Environment at Wood.
“Having managed stakeholder engagement on a number of major infrastructure projects, we are fully aware of the importance of community involvement. Showing passengers what their bridge will look like is a great way of winning over the hearts and minds of rail users,” says Humphries.