Future World Vision Brings Floating City Into View

August 13, 2019

The year is 2070. Imagine that sea-level rise has so altered coastal infrastructure that floodwaters have forced cities offshore, to developments that float on top of the ocean.

What is this floating city going to look like? How does it work? What new infrastructure is needed to keep society functioning, safe and resilient?

And what must civil engineers do now to ensure a successful transition to this potential new environment?

ASCE’s Future World Vision does more than simply answer these questions; it lets you live in the possibilities.

“We’re not just trying to make the most accurate picture of 2070. We’re trying to project the image of 2070 or the experience of 2070 that provokes the most interesting questions for engineers today,” said Patrick Meegan, lead designer for Experimental, the team working with ASCE to create the next phase of Future World Vision – an immersive, storytelling experience.

“We want to take you on a journey 50 years into the future that, ultimately, gets you to think about the present in a radically different, transformative way.”

The interactive, immersive Future World Vision experience will encompass five future worlds. The first of these – the floating city – will debut as a proof of concept at the ASCE 2019 Convention, Oct. 10-13 in Miami.

The Future World Vision floating city user experience allows for three levels of engagement – systems level, district level and micro level. PHOTO: Experimental

The world – and that’s really what it is; Experimental calls themselves “world builders” – is being constructed in a real-time 4-D computer simulation model. The software eventually will work across multiple platforms, from your desktop computer to your handheld device to augmented reality and virtual reality.

It is one part movie, one part video game, one part research paper, one part science project – all parts essential to pushing civil engineers into the future.

Users can interact with the floating city at multiple scales.

You can view it at the planning and systems level to see how the infrastructure interplay shifts over decades.

You can move in a step closer and get a district-level view as if you’re a drone moving over the city, taking in more detail of the built environment.

Or you can explore the world at a more micro level, examining individual character types in the city to see how they go about their day-to-day lives.

The project combines deep research with storytelling elements that allow users to explore the city world through the eyes of individual characters. PHOTO: Experimental

The combination of hard data mixed with future-scenario forecasting is particularly fascinating, and really lies at the core of the entire Future World Vision project. Experimental specializes in this kind of researched imaginarium that seeks to provoke innovation. Alex McDowell, the company’s creative director and co-founder, has more than 30 years of experience doing production design for major motion pictures, including “Minority Report,” “Fight Club” and “Fantastic Mr. Fox.”

“If we can convince you of a plausible but fictional space, through the research and through it being grounded in real science, we can kind of give you the permission as an engineer to think outside the box and apply your problem-solving talents in a new way,” Meegan said.

Said the project’s lead engineer, Jacob Pennock: “We project into the future and then bounce back to the present, working in both directions and making sure they’re aligned.”

Future World Vision, a bold, comprehensive, scenario-planning tool, launched in May with a deeply researched report that projects future worlds based on six key trend drivers.

After the floating city proof of concept debuts in Miami at the ASCE Convention this fall, the project aims to grow even more sophisticated in the new year.

“As the product evolves, we’ll be looking into allowing more cross-platform engagement and multiuser engagement with this content,” Meegan said. “We want to create this kind of shared virtual space, so that people can enter these worlds together and interact and perhaps even annotate the city and have a dialogue through the platform itself.”

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