Blog > Niantic Inc. and Knight Foundation Host Inaugural Augmenting Cities Conference
October 9, 2019
Niantic Inc. and Knight Foundation Host Inaugural Augmenting Cities Conference

Niantic

At Niantic, we are constantly exploring new and innovative ways to leverage the latest Augmented Reality (AR) technology to positively impact communities. AR is already influencing how people behave and move around their neighborhoods and cities, so we set out to create a discussion around what the future Augmented City will look like, asking, “How can collaboration help us shape the future we want to see?”

Today, we are excited to share some of the outcomes of the first ever symposium, “Augmenting Cities: A Playful Path to Community,” hosted in partnership with the Knight Foundation. Held at the Oakland Museum of California on September 23rd & 24th, the invite-only event brought together 150 attendees of diverse backgrounds and disciplines to reflect on how the future of people, cities, and technology will be shaped and evolve through AR.

Augmenting Cities
Augmenting Cities

Attendees were treated with a stellar line-up of sessions featuring talks from thought leaders exploring the relationship between public spaces and technology. Topics included:

  • Designing augmented cities via smart citizens and participatory urbanism, allowing for citizen participation, sharing, and voice
  • The “Art of Rethinking Technology,” looking at how Serpentine Galleries is transforming their public spaces into new worlds focused on the intersection of community, ecology and technology
  • The emergence of the “Hybrid Flaneur” and this new type of urban experience that entails absorbing digital information and altering one’s interaction with public space
  • Perspectives on transforming urban environments through four differing lenses: storytelling, interactive play, sounds, and location-based games
  • Designing inclusive and accessible playable cities
  • How “Place” Impacts Emotions
  • The enabling technologies of AR Cities and the deeper social discourse of its impacts
Augmenting Cities
Augmenting Cities

Attendees also had the opportunity to take part in walking tours to experience Niantic’s location-based AR products around Oakland, as well as interact with the AR audio experience, Only Expansion, the Mural Arts AR project Dreams, Diaspora, and Destiny, and, the public engagement platform, Hello Lamp Post.

The most poignant takeaway was observing the diverse set of opinions. Indeed, when technologists, academics, creatives, urban planners, storytellers, civic institutions, nonprofits, and policy makers come together, the discussions and ideas that germinate are not only inspiring, but are tangible, holistic, and illuminate the building blocks of our future cities.

You can find the full program details and speaker sessions here.

Attendees participated in the Urban Playshop, a unique workshop based on the award-winning imagination game, The Thing from the Future. Participants were challenged to collaborate and competitively share thought-provoking scenarios for alternative futures. Teams presented their ideas which were not only actionable, but also aspirational, hilarious, thoughtful and engaging.

Notable takeaways from our hosts included the following thoughts shared by Sam Gill, VP of Communities and Impact and Senior Adviser to the President of the Knight Foundation, "...If we just make sure that things don’t go wrong, we’ll have missed a huge opportunity. We really should be examining how we can we leverage this technology to really make a positive impact in the world[...]Technology has the potential to enhance a community that seeks to be informed and protect its own interest[...]we’re here to examine how humans can harness the power of #technology and direct it toward the public good.”

Augmenting Cities
Augmenting Cities

In addition, John Hanke, CEO of Niantic, expressed how AR may be painted as a technology that detracts from our real life experiences, but it doesn’t have to. In fact, it can make our interactions with people and places fuller, deeper and more interesting. “Done well, AR can deepen our appreciation for the communities we live in. It can be that ‘nudge’ that causes us to take a look and see things we’ve seen a thousand times with fresh eyes. Done well, it can be the nudge that bumps us off of our daily routine and leads us down that other path, the one not yet taken. So it’s really up to us. It’s up to us to build the world that we want to live in. It’s up to us to build the world that we want our children to live in.”

Augmenting Cities
Augmenting Cities

We're excited to continue to encourage meaningful community engagement and utilize AR technology to make an overall positive impact on the world. As quoted by the symposium’s Master of Ceremonies, Niantic’s Senior Executive Michael Jones, “we are indeed called to be architects of the future.”


-Maryam Sabour, Business Development at Niantic

Niantic

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