San Diego uses show and tell

In San Diego, it's not enough anymore to merely explain to people how future developments will look. People will soon see for themselves online.

The city is the latest to incorporate online photo displays and virtual reality software to make important city plans come to life. San Diego is posting panoramic shots of its efforts to redevelop the former Naval Training Center. And soon city officials will use virtual reality technology to show residents how long-range plans to counter the city's growth could change the look of certain neighborhoods.

"It's just another way people can get an idea of what's going on inthe city," said Arian Collins, public information officer for the city's Community and Economic Development Department. "Everyone can have a more informed opinion."

The Community and Economic Development Department recently posted 360-degree views (www.sandiego.gov/ntc/virtual/index.shtml)of the work in progress at the former Naval Training Center. Over the next few years, the expansive waterfront property will be redeveloped into a complex of housing, offices and retail space.

Collins said the primary objective in giving people such a solid vantage point of the project is the hope that it will lure business to the property.

"They'll have a better idea of what the site looks like," Collins said.

Visitors to the site will find photos of five portions of the property, which they can click on and then drag their mouse through to see a panoramic view. The photos were shot with a digital camera on a tripod, then blended together on an Apple Computer Inc. Macintosh computer with VR Toolbox Inc.'s VR Worx software. Web site users need to download Quicktime Player to view the panoramas.

Collins said the panoramas are San Diego's first step toward using advanced imagery to illustrate the city's development. The next big test comes this fall when city officials will use virtual reality software as they work to update the city's master plan.

Because the long-range plan must allow for the city's huge projected growth, some areas will undergo big changes. Collins said the technology will help show people what some of those changes will look like in their neighborhoods.

Those pictures, created by superimposing images onto real city photographs, likely will be posted online too, with links for the public to comment on the various options.

"You can try to explain what increased density might look like," Collins said. "But everyone has a different picture in their head. This way people can understand."

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