Juliana temporarily lost her ability to speak due to an accident, but her doctor used Augmented Reality (AR) to generate an artificial voice based on her lip movements.  

Although born with a hearing impairment, Jamal loves to explore the city. So, he uses the city’s mass transit app with AR-powered directions to get around.

During his daily walk, Rolando notices an ad for an app near a construction site. Once downloaded, the app overlays an image of the projected development in real space. Rolando immediately sees the need for a bus stop and uses the app to make this request quickly

Augmented reality (AR) no longer only applies to games and social media fun. The innovative use of AR technologies can add value to the lives of community members like those above. US Ignite partnered with Reality Labs to launch the AR Developer Challenge grant to help communities discover and leverage the possibilities of AR. Philadelphia, PA; Raleigh and Town of Cary, NC; and Long Beach, CA received $20,000 each to host AR innovation competitions focused on healthcare, education, transportation, and workforce development. The resulting AR solutions addressed these problems and more!

RIoT Your Reality AR Challenge- Raleigh and Town of Cary, NC

The City of Raleigh and Town of Cary teamed up with RIoT, a local nonprofit, to host the RIoT Your Reality AR Competition. The challenge asked participants to use AR to advance solutions in equity and inclusion, tourism, and workforce development. Two winners emerged – Nature XR and LiRA. Both received $20,000 and have been working closely with the municipalities to pilot and scale their applications.

NatureXR’s application, GardenXR, empowers residents with the ability to design, measure, and plant an augmented reality garden on their property. Most importantly, the app facilitates the approval process with the city and aims to solve flash flooding and stormwater challenges. Since winning the contest, NatureXR has been improving its user interface (UI) and adding customizable elements to the virtual gardens.

The other winner, LiRA, offers the medical industry a novel use of AR providing a computer-generated voice to patients that have lost the ability to speak. By using artificial intelligence, LiRA creates a voice for patients based on their face and lip movements. Their product has gone on to win other pitch competitions, including Convintus Tech Tank and The Big Launch Challenge.

Long Beach AR Challenge – Long Beach, CA

AR_DepictionThe Long Beach AR Challenge sought AR applications that “activated Downtown Long Beach and celebrated its historical past, diverse present, and limitless future.” The competition drew local and international attention, and during the first-ever Long Beach AR Exhibition, community members got to interact with the AR apps. Judges, guided with attendee input, awarded $14,000 in prize money.

Long Beach selected multiple winners at the AR Exhibition. “Singer Through the Decades” by EXAR Studios won “Best in Show” and “Best Image Recognition Effect.”  It allows users to compose musical fragments in four different decade styles.

Larry Longbeach – The Pop-up Tour Guide by Imvizar won second place for “Best World Effect” and an honorable mention for “Best Business Application.” Larry Longbeach, a virtual tour guide, can be placed across the city to tell stories to give historical context to visitors.

The inCitu City Future AR application won 1st prize for Best World Effect. This app immerses users in proposed construction and development projects and seamlessly collects and delivers public feedback to the planners.

Watch clips from Long Beach’s 1st ever AR Exhibition here.

SEPTA for All: Augmenting Transit with Augmented Reality – Philadelphia, PA

Philadelphia teamed up with SEPTA and hosted the SEPTA for All AR Challenge to find innovative uses of AR for making public transportation more accessible for people with disabilities. The judges awarded $15,000 to two winners, who will continue to refine their prototypes.

The Gensler app offers riders “an informed journey.” Riders enter their destination and quickly obtain directional pointers overlayed on their screens. The app also alerts users about path barriers and provides alternate routes. In addition, riders can choose to get notifications, vibrations, flashes, or audio cues. Gensler plans to utilize the prize funding to add schedule information, provide internal station notifications, explore more features, and integrate with the SEPTA App.

SEPTA Alerts by XR4U, the other winning app, uses geolocation to deliver timely notifications about detours, delays, and service outages to users while they are en route. To begin a journey, users can scan a QR code inside the bus/train or manually enter points of origin/destination. XR4U will work with SEPTA to integrate the app into the SEPTA App and explore new features, like “favorite trips” and integration with the SEPTA Key (digital fare pass).

Augmented Real Community

The AR applications resulting from the AR Developer Challenge give us just a glimpse of the possibilities. This experience makes it clear that when local communities and business leaders pitch real community problems to local entrepreneurs, innovative solutions emerge to improve community experiences, engagement, and enterprise.

Check out a recap of the AR Developer Challenge below. 

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About US Ignite

US Ignite is a high-tech nonprofit with a mission to accelerate the smart community movement. We work to guide communities into the connected future, create a path for private sector growth, and advance technology research that’s at the heart of smarter development. For more information, visit www.us-ignite.org.

About Reality Labs

At Reality Labs, we bring together the brightest cross-disciplinary minds in one place to deliver our mission: build tools that help people feel connected, anytime, anywhere. Developers, researchers, engineers and designers all working together to help build a more expansive – and more inclusive – future for all of us. https://about.facebook.com/realitylabs/