Imagine … You slip on a pair of special glasses, allow your eyes to adjust — and click play. Fade into scene. Look left, then right. Now try up and down. You are quickly orienting, and now you recognize a few landmarks: the building where your favorite café was and a magnolia tree that put on a show every spring.
You see a street sign that says you’re are at SE 6th and Washington. But this intersection is different than it used to be. There are more street trees, benches with people eating lunch and reading the newspaper. And that café? It’s now a pizzeria, its garage doors rolled up and beckoning you to sit down for a slice.
As you take it all in, several bicyclists zip by your shoulder. They were close, but you feel safe because they sped along a painted track that keeps you comfortably separated. Seconds later, a laughing child runs in front of you as her mom gives chase. You turn left and see that a parking lot is now a three-story building with restaurants on the first floor and offices above. You wonder if you’ve stepped into the future.
Welcome to virtual reality.
What you just experienced is Portland’s Green Loop. Conceived by the City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS) to be a linear park, the loop will provide residents, workers and visitors a place to walk, bike, run and play along a 6-mile loop around the Central City.
In the past, BPS has shown what new development could look like with maps, photos and drawings. But as part of Design Week Portland, the bureau partnered with Oregon Story Board and Shovels and Whiskey to create a virtual reality experience of the Green Loop.
Virtual reality (or VR) is best known in the computer gaming world, but it’s now being used by health care practitioners, educators, artists and marketers. VR uses headset viewers to create immersive visual experiences that can feel very real. Employing it as a community engagement tool is pioneering and — as far as we know — BPS is one of the first planning agencies in the country to do so.
If you are at Design Week Portland’s Opening Gala, you can try it for yourself. Later in May, BPS will release a version of the Green Loop virtual reality experience to view online or with the Google Cardboard App. Look for more details about that soon.
So stay tuned for more exciting new about the Green Loop and how you can continue to experience it at www.portlandoregon.gov/bps/greenloop.