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Disruptive technologies for smart cities - Virtual Reality

Disruptive technologies for smart cities - Virtual Reality

This is the last article from the series the KISMC team, a member of the Cluster, started in 2020, based on the outputs produced by partners under the project Smart technologies by design (Smart by Design). It was found that there are many digital and/or data-based technologies that are to a large extend applicable in the real conditions of the city and contribute to its coping with public problems or challenges. They are used in diverse areas like transport, energy, utility, urban, health, etc.

These technologies were called smart city technologies and the main purpose of the mentioned project was to map and select those 11 of them that refer to the greatest extent to the concept of a smart city and have already been implemented in diverse areas of application of one city. This article will present the last, 11th technology - Virtual reality.


Virtual reality (VR) is a three-dimensional, computer-generated environment that people can explore and interact with. This technology places the user in a new experience; immersing them and making them interact with a new 3D world. The main purpose of the VR resides in simulating as many senses as possible, like vision, hearing, touching, and even smelling. It is very common to mix VR with the Augmented Reality (AR). While AR simulates artificial objects in a real environment, VR creates a fully artificial environment for the interaction of users.

In order to achieve a full VR experience, it has to correspond with the next aspects:

  • Believable: the user has to believe or feel that is in another world.
  • Interactive: as the user moves, the VR world needs to move also.
  • Computer-generated: only powerful computers with realistic 3D computer graphics are fast enough to make it believable and interactive enough.
  • Explorable: it has to be big and detail enough, so that the user is able to explore it and discover the “virtual world”.
  • Immersive: the VR needs to engage both, mind and body of the user.

As there are some technologies that do not respond in the same way the previous requirements, there are different types of VR:

  • Fully Immersive: which contains a detailed virtual world to explore, a powerful computer and hardware which will help to fully immerse in the environment.
  • Non-Immersive: simulators with big screens or headphones, but without a fully immersive experience can be considered as VR. There are some examples in which full immersion is not needed like: flight simulators, 3D buildings...
  • Collaborative: it is a non-immersive technology/entertainment which permits sharing the virtual world with other people. Ex: Minecraft.
  • Web-based: it is basically trying to create a virtual world on the web but without any immersive experience.
  • Virtual Reality needs some gadgets, which make the experience, be more realistic: Head-mounted displays (glasses), immersive rooms, data gloves or wands.

Current status


Some of the best-known providers of VR technology providers are:

Moreover, currently, VR needs some special glasses or Head-mounted displays (HMD) in order to create the virtual world. Some of those glasses are:

Existing standards

There are already some international standards for VR applications:

  • ISO/IEC 14772-2:2004: Information technology -- Computer graphics and image processing -- The Virtual Reality Modeling Language (VRML) -- Part 2: External authoring interface (EAI)
  • ISO/IEC 14772-1:1997: Information technology -- Computer graphics and image processing -- The Virtual Reality Modeling Language -- Part 1: Functional specification and UTF-8 encoding
  • ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC 24: Computer graphics, image processing, and environmental data representation
  • ISO/IEC 14496-3:2009: Information technology -- Coding of audio-visual objects -- Part 3: Audio
  • ISO/IEC TR 15440:2016: Information technology -- Future keyboards and other input devices and entry methods
  • ISO 9241-940:2017: Ergonomics of human-system interaction -- Part 940: Evaluation of tactile and haptic interactions

Apart from these, there are many standards and projects under development by the IEEE

Key applications

  • VR is a technology that is used in a lot of different types of applications:
  • Military: flight simulation, medic training, virtual boot camp, battlefield simulation...
  • Healthcare: human simulation, virtual reality, virtual robotic surgery...
  • Fashion: a virtual fashion show, second life fashion...
  • Business: virtual tours of business environments, 360º view of products, training of employees...
  • Sport: VR performance, equipment design and innovation, events closer to the audience...
  • Scientific visualization: showing complex ideas in visual formats for physics, biology, astronomy, chemistry...
  • Construction: virtual exploring design, simulated construction, viability...
  • Education: virtual reality astronomy, technology closer to children...
  • Entertainment: virtual museums, galleries, virtual theme parks, discovery centers...
  • Virtual heritage sites: monuments, sculptures, historical buildings, old towns, caves, archaeological dig...
  • Engineering: design-cycle, rail construction, car design...
  • Film and TV: music, books, art...
  • Training of professional in different sectors
  • Support for cognitive diseases and elder people


It is obvious that Virtual Reality is one of the most promising technologies for the future. Firms will continue trying to send users to new places that have not been before and providing new solutions to multiple sectors.

VR is originally linked to the gaming and entertainment industries but it will also influence other fields. For example, students will be able to explore historical places immersing them in virtual worlds. Even if it seems a very difficult approach in the short term, new platforms and solutions will be developed in order to improve and evolve Virtual Reality towards a more realistic and affordable technology. The idea is that the future of VR will involve more than headsets and controllers, it is expected to be more physical. It will be more sensory-oriented than nowadays, which is more focused on the visual sense. Next devices are expected to introduce much better touch controls, temperature change or smells, making them more complete reality simulators.

Expected evolution


There are already some standards established in VR. But, as mentioned above, there are lots of working groups conducting new projects with the objective of placing new standards. Some of the most relevant ones are:

  • IEEE P2048.1: Standard for Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality: Device Taxonomy and Definitions
  • IEEE P2048.2: Standard for Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality: Immersive Video Taxonomy and Quality Metrics
  • IEEE P2048.3: Standard for Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality: Immersive Video File and Stream Formats
  • IEEE P2048.4: Standard for Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality: Person Identity
  • IEEE P2048.5: Standard for Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality: Environment Safety
  • IEEE P2048.6: Standard for Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality: Immersive User Interface
  • IEEE P2048.7: Standard for Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality: Map for Virtual Objects in the Real World
  • IEEE P2048.8: Standard for Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality: Interoperability Between Virtual Objects and the Real World
  • IEEE P2048.9: Standard for Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality: Immersive Audio Taxonomy and Quality Metrics

Potential applications

As it is a very cross-sectorial technology that can be applied to most sectors, countless applications will be developed in the future. Some of those can be next ones:

  • Business: virtual conferences which will save lots of traveling costs
  • Gaming: the fully immersive experience
  • Travelling industry: being able to transfer any environment from the world to some local point allowing people with difficulties to travel
  • Films: in the same way that the 3D films started, a fully immersive watching films experience will be available in the future
  • Surgery: even if some platforms already appeared, there is still a very long way to go in order to implement it in a more practical and wide way.
  • Space exploration
  • Quality of life: the life of people with impairment, diseases or physical problems will be able to enjoy a better life, simulating other realities.
  • Training for any industrial or logistic sectors


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