AUGMENTED REALITY: THE QUAKE APPLICATION

Abstract 

To communicate and educate the staff and the students about disaster responses in cases of earthquakes and fires, we have come up with the QUAKE app. The application, which is compatible with the mobile phones operating system, is a comprehensive yet straightforward application that utilizes augmented reality by superimposing virtual reality with real-life experiences. The AR system works primarily as a disaster management tool considering the past cases of natural disaster losses. The use of the virtual content in real life is to train members of staff and students alike on the ‘whats’ and ‘hows’ of disaster response. The paper explains the innovation by examining the ideas and motivation behind it – with the scrutiny of related works. Concisely, the paper will take the reader through the enormity of natural disasters, the ensuing responses, and the remedies that the QUAKE app offers to the student and staff. 

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Perhaps, it is an understatement to say that when an earthquake of a substantial magnitude hits a region, its story changes forever. And inevitably, it does not change for the good! For natural disasters have a way of bringing with them enormous economic damages and victims. In fact, the negative impacts ensuing from an earthquake of a high magnitude on the Richter scale does not narrow down to collapsed buildings and lost lives – although they are significant losses. Injuries, loss of property, and even psychological tortures such as social traumas result from such disasters. Actually, the effects of the earthquakes range from the critical ones to the superficial ones. Despite the supposed classification and distinction, both ought to be examined, assessed, and mitigated. Indeed, even a cursory earthquake can lead to a very high cost of repair considering that it would be underestimated. Probably, the most top cause of the losses is the lack of effective communication tools that inform people about the dynamics of an earthquake disaster. Seismic countermeasures suffice as an imperative mitigation exercise. In fact, they effectively emanate from a rapid damage assessment system. And that can be achieved using augmented reality applications (AR Apps). With the capability of getting back into time – capturing the reality on both before and immediately after a horrendous earthquake, an AR app happens to be the apt technology to assess the damage. The augmented reality app will superimpose a virtual and a real-world giving a net effect of a comprehensive meaning on the real life damages resulting from earthquakes. 

Background and Problem Statement

Natural disasters lead to immense losses once they occur. Earthquakes stand out as one of the most prominent forms of natural disasters. Loss of lives and economic damages are some of the few yet notable damages that result from earthquakes. In fact, the statistics of the losses are worrisome – a fact that calls for mitigation. Considering the magnitude of the accidents that earthquakes cause, it is prudent to have a rapid damage assessment system and strategy. The system helps in both the ascertainments of the extent of the loss and helps in the recovery of the society. The augmented reality app for earthquakes just happens to be a veritable technological tool that will help in creating awareness on the seismic risks appertaining to earthquakes. 

Augmented Reality

Augmented reality is a reality perceived from a digital form through technology. Inasmuch as it is a reality, it enriches the real world by incorporating in it – digital information (Reitano, Falsaperia & Musacchio, 2017). In essence, the augmented reality will blend elements of reality and virtue ones in a superimposed manner to bring out a unique element. Ideally, the technology operates by combining images captured from cameras with virtual models such as 3Ds (Reitano et al., 2017).  The technology capitalizes on the uniqueness of the view that captures the observer’s eye. Superficially, augmented reality is an increased view of the real world. Typically, the process of developing the AR involves the capture of images and locations. Then, the specially designed software will integrate the real-time images with virtual items that are stored in a database. This characteristic of the technology makes it an effective tool in the rapid damage assessment of earthquakes. In fact, it is capable of providing both the physical information about the impairment; and also the assessment of the damage after destruction. As such, the responsible authorities can manage to offer timely and immediate response should the natural disaster occur. Primarily, the augmented reality app will deliver the pre-disaster data with the requisite complexities necessary to even avert future hazards through mapping in a combination of both real and virtual information. However, the technology is technical and comprehensive; as such, the present paper will seek to elaborate how it works in details later. 

Previous Works and the Justification of the New App

Previous studies have focused on the assessment of building damages and safety issues that occur during and after periods of earthquakes. However, the area of damage control and assessment is an expansive field altogether. Most of the studies have focused on the remote sensing inventories – particularly after the damages have occurred (Kim, Kerle, and Gerke, 2016). Inasmuch as the focus has been a significant milestone, it has not been exhaustive in addressing the issues emanating from earthquakes related damages. Logically, it would be better to have preemptive strategies than responsive ones – although none is futile. Notably, the safety of buildings and the response of the occupants to impending dangers are issues that have been scarcely addressed both in research and in practice. Thus, there has been relatively a substantial acquisition of post-disaster data and limited information on the pre-disaster front. 

For instance, previous researchers and developers have come up with various technologies related modalities for disaster response. Lately, there has been the use of photogrammetry in determining the critical damages in the structural formation of buildings after earthquakes. According to Kim et al., the technology has helped in the scrutiny of the integrity of structures (2016). On the hand, 3D technology has been used to scan data that has helped in assessing the symmetry of the structures hit by the shock waves. The frontiers of that technology are Schweier and Markus, who according to Kim et al. were unable to assess the post-disaster data accurately (2016). An improvement of the same was made through the VIEWS (visualizing impacts of earthquakes with satellites). At least this design would capture the images both on the pre and post-disaster periods without the interference of the remote sensors on the buildings. So, albeit the drawbacks innovators have been seeking a remedy to the natural disaster that is earthquakes. 

Nonetheless, most if not all of the innovations appear to have majored in assessing damages. Devoid of any pejoration, it would suffice to say that most of the rapid response system has been reportage rather than preemptive and educative. As Kim et al. notes, limited studies have examined the potential of AR in matters of disaster management (2016). Probably, that is the reason why this research has deemed it fit to come up with a plan that would incorporate augmented reality in design that will not only assess the pre-damages, but will also have prominent features that will enable the users to understand the modalities necessary to respond to possible earthquake crisis. Apparently, natural disasters are inevitable; but nonetheless, through a strategic innovation like the proposed augmented reality app, they can be dodged (Leebmann, 2004). It is, therefore, the purpose of the present study to fill the existing gap in the area of rapid response to earthquake cases by coming up with an innovative new app that will be user-friendly.  

The Concept of the App

The use of augmented reality in mobile telephony and the exploration of outdoor environments has been a practice over the past few years. However, the use of the technology has had both advantages and disadvantages during its utilization. The technology is an integration of both software and hardware used in field research. Lee, Dunser, Kim, and Billinghurst observe that the use of the technology has been cumbersome in the previous years (2012). Perhaps, a response to that would be the development of an efficient technology that would increase the sophistry of the software while reducing the hardware to portable levels. The current app named QUAKER works to offer the response. 

The application is designed in a manner that incorporates complex software with simple hardware. However, that complexity of the software does not render it complicated; in fact, it is an efficiency advantage. That is because the QUAKER will have various salient features that will borrow from the existing technology while adding some innovative ones that would make it a user-friendly experience. For instance, like the CityViewAR, an almost similar app, it provides geographic information (Lee et al. 2012). In fact, the app will be working through augmented reality in user-friendly ways with the objective of capturing both data and informing the users on safety measures. Ideally, the app will train staff and students about how to leave a building in case of a fire or an earthquake. Besides, the app will be compatible with the Samsung VR. Hence, the virtual program will solve the real-life crisis. 

The App and Other Related Works

In order to improve on the issue of disaster management, it is prudent to have periodic and continuous simulations. The QUAKER app will be making the much-needed efforts of socializing and simulating fire and earthquake disasters to the staff and the students – and possibly later to the entire nations. In an almost similar project, Pamenang, Basuki, Sigit, notes how the Meteorology Agency in Indonesia jointly with other stakeholder authorities, have been simulating natural disasters (2017).  In their system, they “use the firecracker explosion to capture the atmosphere and have the more tense effect to the students” (Pamenang, Basuki, & Sigit, 2017, p. 193). Besides, the incorporates system the use of mobile technology to capture a larger audience. Most importantly, the use of mobile technology in stimulation is critical in the creation of awareness and raising the knowledge levels about any impending disaster. 

As such, the QUAKER app will perhaps borrow heavily from the Indonesian system albeit giving it contextual improvements to fit the current needs of the staff and the students. For instance, the application will provide an interactive interface that will combine augmented reality and virtual reality using the 3D design. Interestingly, the use of the mobile technology helps the users to have a feel of the reality while having a virtual experience (Pamenang et al., 2017). In fact, the use of the augmented reality to stimulate the students and staff about earthquakes and fires will immerse them into learning. Ideally, a virtual experience through the app in the 3D designs will hopefully, be an ample preparation to cope with the disaster in real life. The app will provide both information about the disasters and provide an interactive experience in a module that will allow the users to ‘feel’ the fires and the earthquakes. Similar to Kim’s observation in related works, the app will visualize existing information and generate a new one (2014). 

The Key Factors in the App

Numerous factors affect the efficiency and the accuracy of a mobile AR. However, some essential features emerge in question from the design of the prototype. These basic elements define the success and the novelty of the innovation. In fact, as Kim (2014) notes, several key factors determine the application of mobile AR in damage and safety assessment. Ideally, they are the “level of complexity (LOC), data source, method, accuracy and uncertainty” (Kim, 2014 p. 18). Primarily, the QUAKE application prototype will incorporate both an indoor and outdoor augmented reality to grasp the whole vulnerability within the potential disaster areas. The systematic approach of the prototype is critical in ascertaining the effectiveness of the app on both pre and post-disaster management. But the QUAKE will be based on the Samsung VR since it is prudent to develop the application using a platform that is compatible with the smartphone. As such, it will have an integrated interface that will be compatible with the Android OS, the Windows phone, and the iOs. 

Accuracy and effectiveness are critical to the present project. Therefore, the level of accuracy comes up as the main concern in the development of the prototype. Ideally, the LOC will range from simple to complex – incorporating all the necessary features of an augmented reality technology using 3D features. Ideally, the concept of complexity is not a complicated one, as semantics would insinuate. Typically, it is a term that shows the relativity of data dimensions and the accuracy levels (Kim et al., 2016). In a virtual scale, the LOC would range from simple to complex depending on the captured images. That just means that is will be an assessment of the standard safety building, the collapsed one (in the event the inevitable happens), the attributes of the collapsed or burnt building, and the reference images. Perhaps, that explanation befits the definition of a complex and wholesome LOC. However, the QUAKE will also have other salient features that will distinguish it from typical disaster management augmented reality applications. 

Figure 1. LOC attributes (Kim et. al, 2016)

The System Design

It is imperative to illustrate the system design that the QUAKE application will be using. Especially, as it will help in the establishment of the originality of the idea and the identification of the salient features that make it distinct in the market. Since the project is in the proposal stages – the research has identified a rudimentary design that will guide in the prototype framework. 

Figure 2. System Design (Pamenang et al., 2017).

Note: the information about the earthquake on the tower will also include the information about a fire in the building since both disasters are the objectives of the project. Also, the illustration is just a basic design that acts only as a simple guideline of the main idea. 

Interface Design

The QUAKE application is basically an information browser which will allow the user to access not only the located information but will also tailor them for future preemption. One of the main features of the application is that it will be compatible most, if not all, mobile phones operating systems. As such, it will primarily take advantage of the already existing GPS sensors in the smartphones. Actually, various smartphone features will make the operation of the application very efficient. For instance, the app will use various views that will make it use friendly and optimize visualization. Mainly, it will have the AR, and list views. Additionally, it will use various interface for the provision of both content and information. Although it is still in the initial stages, the interface will have various layers through which navigation will become possible and logical. 

Brief Description of the Interface Use

The first layer in the navigation map will be a general interface that will give the title and instructions of the application. Thus, the first layer will simply be more of a title screen. The second layer will be the map section. That is where the structural design and the coordinates of the building will be available. The third and the final navigation layer will be comprehensive than the others. It is the one that will give spatial context of the content and information available in the application. In fact, it will have history of the buildings, 3D images and panorama pictures as the salient features. The smartphone’s camera will be critical in the third layer since here it will have sensory designs that will shift with the adjustment of its view. Finally, it will have pop-up touch buttons that will carry data and queries with preprogrammed information and shared additives from the general internet. The pop-ups will be responsible with hosting images, videos, and audios that will wedge the virtual reality into a real experience. Nonetheless, the information, directions, and instructions will be brief and concise to avoid the app being cluttered with superfluous information. 

Conclusion

This paper provides a proposal and the description of the QUAKE augmented reality application. The application is a critical innovation that aims at filling the gap in the rapid response systems at times of disaster. Apparently, most of the available applications and strategies are based on the pre-disaster approach where the data is used to analyze the extent of damages. However, the inception and the idea behind the application come with a paradigm shift. It is a system that is designed in a way that it will give both the history of the building and also offer a possible solution in case of disasters from both fires and earthquakes. The idea is well thought-out since it appears to be an improvement of the current and existing systems. That has been sufficiently appreciate through the discussion of related works – which to say the least have been very critical in disaster management. Besides, the QUAKE app appreciates the concern of accuracy, database structure, usability, and the interface. Simplicity, advancement, originality, and user-friendliness wholesomely describes the project. 

References

Kim, W. (2014). A Building Damage and Safety Assessment with Mobile Augmented Reality. University of Twente Faculty of Geo-Information and Earth Observation (ITC).

Kim, W., Kerle, N., & Gerke, M. (2016). Mobile augmented reality in support of building damage and safety assessment. Natural hazards and earth system sciences16(1), 287.

Lee, G. A., Dünser, A., Kim, S., & Billinghurst, M. (2012, November). CityViewAR: A mobile outdoor AR application for city visualization. In Mixed and Augmented Reality (ISMAR-AMH), 2012 IEEE International Symposium on (pp. 57-64). IEEE.

Leebmann, J. (2004). An augmented reality system for earthquake disaster response. In XXth ISPRS Congress, The International Archives of the Photogrammetry, Remote Sensing and Spatial Information Sciences, Istanbul.

Luchetti, G., Mancini, A., Sturari, M., Frontoni, E., & Zingaretti, P. (2017). Whistland: An augmented reality crowd-mapping system for civil protection and emergency management. ISPRS International Journal of Geo-Information6(2), 41.

Pamenang, M. U., Basuki, A., & Sigit, R. (2018). An Augmented Reality Application for the Community Learning about the Risk of Earthquake in a Multi-storey Building AreaEMITTER International Journal of Engineering Technology5(2), 192-208.Reitano, D., Falsaperla, S., Musacchio, G., & Merenda, R. (2017, June). Awareness on Seismic Risk: How can Augmented Reality help?. In International Conference on Earthquake Engineering and Structural Dynamics.

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