The Future of Smart Cities Takes to the Skies

Imagine being on the bustling streets of Tokyo staring at the sky as some of the world’s top competitive professional pilots race aerobatic aircrafts between a canopy of skyscrapers. On October 15, that very event took place in one of the busiest metropolitan areas in the world, Shibuya City Tokyo, at ©AIR RACE X

If you’re shocked by the notion of high-speed aircraft buzzing and spinning above crowded city streets, your concern is warranted. You will also be relieved, and probably impressed, to know that this was a “City XR Entertainment” digital event that simulated real-world aircraft flights via Augmented Reality (AR). Pilots flew identical courses in their home countries and the timed flight data was then integrated into a digital twin of Shibuya City Tokyo via an XR application called STYLY. Viewers wearing a PICO VR Headset, Meta Quest 3, or using their own mobile devices were close to the action and could see the aircraft flying right in front of them and then creen their necks to see the high turns directly overhead.

This immersive experience adds a massive cool factor to the metaverse. Beyond the entertainment value, these technical applications hold promise for the future of smart cities. The act of simulating real-world activities in a visual, virtual environment could ignite a new level of global collaboration between urban enthusiasts from city planners, to elected officials, to residents and citizens. 

Psychic VR Lab (PVL), the developer of the XR application, promises an experience where XR viewers will be able to flip through XR layers in the metaverse. Imagine that these layers could include construction in the built environment such as bridges, tunnels, and buildings. Consider how improvements to city systems such as water and wastewater could be simulated and tested. How could this type of XR technology impact collaboration between city departments or between city leaders around the world? How could XR technology foster greater understanding and encourage dialogue between city planners and affected residents/citizens? 

Masahiro Yamaguchi, CEO and Founder of Psychic VR Lab states, “We are very passionate about City XR Entertainment and this Air Race X is a huge turning point for STYLY and the XR industry and it is my hope that we can share and grow in this digital experience.” Maybe it’s time to bring city entertainment to city hall.   

The topic of smart cities is often accused of being rife with bright and shiny objects. This criticism is often well deserved, but perhaps some city bling every so often is needed for inspiration and (frankly) for fun. ©AIR RACE X  is a perfect example of how what entertains can also inspire real-world change. If you’re looking for the next big thing for smart cities, maybe all we need to do is to look UP!