University of Bradford to develop augmented reality app for Yorkshire cyclists

University of Bradford to develop augmented reality app for Yorkshire cyclists

An augmented reality application for CityConnect, West Yorkshire’s multi-million-pound cycling scheme, will engage cyclists and encourage them to learn about road safety on the go.

CityConnect, a program dedicated to improving cycle facilities across West Yorkshire, is collaborating with the University of Bradford’s Digital Media Working Academy to build an augmented reality (AR) app for cyclists.

Taking inspiration from the viral success of last year’s Pokemon Go, the project will incorporate AR and elements of gamification to explore ways in which safe and responsible cycling can be encouraged. The first prototype of the app will be based on the Cycle Superhighway linking Bradford and Leeds.

The University of Bradford’s Digital Media Working Academy is an in-house production company within the department of Media, Design and Technology.

Speaking to Internet of Business, its head Simon Couth provided  more detail on how the app will be used by cyclists. “The app is definitely designed to be used whilst cycling”, he said. “It’s part of the appeal. Much like Pokemon Go has got users out walking around to ‘play’, this will encourage more people to cycle using one of the CityConnect routes.”

It’s easy to assume that road safety and screens aren’t a match made in heaven, but keeping cyclists safe is paramount. “We are working with a simple but secure strap that attaches the phone to the handlebars. Safety is an integral aspect of the app with warnings and safe cycle guidance a part of the gameplay, much like people use a screen sat nav as they drive.”

Augmented reality and gamification will encourage cyclists

augmented reality app cyclists
Could AR and gamification raise road safety awareness among new cyclists? – Draft storyboard from The Digital Media Working Academy, Bradford.

“By developing the proof of concept for the AR cycling app, we will have the perfect opportunity to engage with groups who traditionally don’t tend to cycle. With the help from the CityConnect cycling engagement team, we will work with groups such as young professionals or older members of the Asian community to find out how an AR cycling app could encourage them to cycle more, especially on the Cycle Superhighway.”

Plans for the app include explorable features on the Leeds to Bradford Superhighway, highlighting the signs used and the shared safety conventions cyclists, motorists and pedestrians are bound by. Cyclists will be rewarded for being safe and responsible, while points will be deducted for reckless riding.

Technology as a tool for engagement

If you can’t beat them, join them. As Pokemon Go emphatically proved, sometimes immersive technology can be the key to getting people of all ages to exercise. Councillor Susan Hinchcliffe, chair of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s investment committee and leader of the Bradford Council, said: “Technology is an important and ever-increasing feature in all elements of people’s lives and we are keen to harness cutting edge developments for cyclists.”

“The Cycle Superhighway between Bradford and Leeds provides cyclists with some of the best dedicated cycling infrastructure in the country and this app will add a new level of engagement and enjoyment for the many people using it. It will give us also give us the ability to communicate and engage with new stakeholder groups and give more people the opportunity to enjoy a healthier and more active lifestyle using CityConnect routes.”

gamification AR cycling app
Draft storyboard from The Digital Media Working Academy, Bradford.

Speaking with Internet of Business, CityConnect programme communications and engagement coordinator Katie Edmondson agreed that innovation and engagement can go hand in hand. “As part of CityConnect, we have a dedicated engagement programme which aims to deliver activity, such as cycle training or access to a bike, to get people walking and cycling more often,” she said.

“We are keen to show how innovative technology can support this engagement and the delivery of this programme. We are working with the Working Academy to showcase how technology can be used as an engagement tool, and how an AR app can be used to make cycling more fun, and, importantly for CityConnect, safe.”

The prototype is scheduled to be showcased at the Cycle City Active City conference, which will be hosted by Bradford Council and supported by CityConnect on 11 & 12 May.