'Time machine' shows city before quakes

By Heather McCracken

The CityViewAR app also works on smartphones, as well as Google Glass.
The CityViewAR app also works on smartphones, as well as Google Glass.

An application developed by Christchurch researchers allows people to walk its streets and see how they looked before the earthquakes.

Associate Professor Mark Billinghurst from the University of Canterbury said the Google Glass application would allow people to "time-travel" back to Christchurch before the devastating quakes, as well as see panoramic images taken of the quake damage.

Google Glass is a lightweight computer worn like a pair of glasses which allows users to see information on a screen in front of their eyes.

The CityViewAR app, built by the university's HIT Lab research institute, was adapted from a version whichthey developed earlier for mobile phones.

"When you walk downtown through the city blocks, where there used to be buildings you can now see 3D models of what used to be there," Professor Billinghurst said.

"Currently there's lots of parking lots where historic buildings used to be, and this allows you to replace the parking lots and put back the historic buildings."

He said looking at the models was like being in a first-person video game, but seeing it in the real world rather than on a computer. The user would also see information about historic buildings, and on some sites see photos of the earthquake damage.

"So you get the feeling you're standing at that spot a week or two after the earthquake.

"It's kind of like a time machine, it takes you back in time to the day before the earthquake, and it takes you forward a week or two to after the earthquake and you can see the destruction of the quake."

The photos are GPS tagged so they can be matched up with locations.

Professor Billinghurst said that while very few people in New Zealand had access to a Google Glass display, the mobile application was also available for iPhone and Android. APNZ


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