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Australian university opens future cities planning lab

Housed within the UNSW Built Environment faculty, the lab will make use of use interactive technology, big data, visualisation, VR and planning models 

Virtual reality will be one of the technologies used in the lab to support decision-making
Virtual reality will be one of the technologies used in the lab to support decision-making

The University of New South Wales (UNSW) has opened what it claims is the world’s first lab for planning future cities.


Housed within UNSW built environment faculty, the City Analytics Lab uses interactive technology, big data, visualisation, virtual reality and planning models to support an interdisciplinary approach to decision-making for city planning and policy-making.


The lab is designed to help government and industry understand these technologies and new approaches to inform the planning of more liveable, productive, sustainable and resilient cities.


According to UNSW, traditional technology such as websites and file sharing cause silos between agencies that impede collaboration and group decision-making. Digital artefacts in the form of data and models can be easily viewed and shared in real time at the new facility.


“The lab brings down the barriers for information sharing, engaging with data, models and simulations,” said professor Christopher Pettit, chair of urban science in the built environment faculty at UNSW.


“This is a room that supports the multidisciplinary approach that is required when you are looking at cities. Cities are not run by one department, one agency or one group. We are trying to get people working together on the same page.”


The new lab features an interactive collaboration space that gives policymakers, government officials, communities and industry leaders the opportunity to explore possible outcomes of planning decisions on factors such as transportation, education, health and justice. It also employs virtual reality and augmented reality technology that provide realistic and dynamic experiences.


Paul Fletcher MP, minister for urban Infrastructure and cities, who formally opened the lab, commended UNSW for its work in making Australian cities smarter and more liveable through the facility.


“This is an important focus for the Turnbull government as we roll out our $50m Smart Cities and Suburbs programme, through which we are working with UNSW and other organisations including local councils, to make our cities better places to live using data and technology,” added Fletcher.


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