Cycling in Augmented Space

A contribution to the Cycle City/Active City: Bradford Conference, 11-12 May 2017.

“How games, real-time apps, augmented reality and digital & sensory media displays are influencing the cycling experience.”

Authors: Patrick Allen (School of Media Design and Technology, University of Bradford) and David Robison (Capital of Cycling, Bradford).

The Cycling Go! app: concepts and prototype.

AR/VR Conference Manchester 2017: presentation abstract and further details

Cycling in Augmented Space: slide presentation

Research Questions

  1. Engagement: In what ways can augmented reality and the gamification of aspects of ordinary life be utilised to engage new participants, or existing ones more fully, into activities such as cycling?
  2. Impacts: In what ways can these technologies be used to measure and, therefore, to provide evidence for the impact of cycling upon public health and the environment?


This paper describes an approach to experiences of “augmented space” where media technologies and signs are transposed onto the physical space of the urban environment. The use of mobile apps when cycling, in combination with signage and other ‘layering’ has the potential to influence our experiences, beyond mapping or time trials. This paper assesses experiences of space in relation to the deployment of augmented reality technologies and modes of display associated with new, digital and sensory media. Theoretical and conceptual work in relation to augmented spaces (Allen, Fatah and Robison, 2017; Aurigi 2008; Manovich 2006) will underpin this.

To complement our theoretical understanding of how the experience of urban space is being disrupted/transformed, a series of exploratory AR projects that relate to cycling will be exposited. Work with partner organisations already indicate the potential in the use of specific aspects of augmented and mixed reality into areas of urban design, tourism, cycling and sustainable transport. These have highlighted the need to focus on the characteristics of the specific space in question, or “site-specificity”. In addition to this, the argument rests on the extent to which the spaces under investigation are “embodied”. One of our most exciting propositions is an augmented reality cycling game, Cycling Go, which is in an early stage of development.

The purpose of developing both a theoretical understanding of augmented space alongside the practical development of the use of ubiquitous media technologies is to examine strategies for participation and engagement. The design, development and deployment of augmented and mixed reality systems and novel forms of display are evaluated from the perspective of their facility to create, develop and promote strategies for engagement, which promote cycling, sustainable transport and healthy living.

Whilst these studies are only preliminary, there are research questions already in use to establish such things as:

* Disruption/transformation of the experience of augmented space – the gamification of cycling.

* Ways of representing user engagement in Augmented Space (the case of CityConnect Cycling Super-Highway).

* Situated and Site-specific qualities of both medium and environment.

* Embodiment and safety of the virtual cyclist.

* Relations between “Physical and Virtual” objects in a cycling context.

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