Meet The Startup That’s Given Iskandar Johor A VR Tour Worthy Of A Smart City
To present data about their development in a smart city-worthy way, Iskandar’s developers IRDA teamed up with Malaysian startup VRgini to develop a VR-enabled website.
The website can be experienced through desktop or mobile VR rigs.
It’s a bird’s eye extension of VRgini’s usual property-based offerings, hoping to make the concept of a smart city more accessible to the average Malaysian.
When we think about a smart city in Malaysia, our attention often turns towards Cyberjaya, and for good reason. But another smart city is on the rise, and might just become a powerhouse in the near future.
Iskandar has been in the works since 2005, but has only been getting international attention and curiosity in recent years. It is said that Iskandar will help usher in Johor’s “Golden Decade” thanks to “tremendous development” in the area.
For a city gunning for modernity though, the developers realised that they lacked one crucial element—a website that truly showcases both their calibre as a smart city, and the extent of their development.
And this is when they approached a Malaysian startup for a potential solution.
VRgini has been combining virtual reality and property since 2016, allowing potential buyers or investors to look at an area or apartment using their smartphones rather than having to visit the space itself thanks to—you guessed it—virtual reality.
They’re part of an international trend that might shape the property industrylong-term, though VRgini has mostly only been active in Malaysia’s southside.
“We started small, focusing on the real-estate market by providing developers and agents with virtual tours of their units and projects, then venturing into a wider range of projects and markets, including urban data collection, showcasing and smart city projects,” said VRgini’s founder, Abdul Wahab.
Then, the collaboration happened.
Iskandar Regional Development Authority (IRDA) approached VRgini with the hopes of solving some of their problems.
IRDA realised that they didn’t have a centralised information portal for Iskandar Malaysia that truly expresses the magnitude of development happening there. They also wanted a fix for an outdated and inefficient use of both data and technology.
On their end, VRgini currently has a few properties under UEM Sunrise under their virtual belt, a development with a positive relationship with the Iskandar project.
So VRgini stepped up their usual apartment-viewing VR, and developed a virtual information gallery of Iskandar Malaysia to officially introduce the smart city to a global market in an immersive VR way.
The website was officially unveiled at the World Urban Forum held last month in Malaysia.
With either their desktop or a smartphone with a VR headset, users are able to see a bird’s eye view of the ongoing development in Iskandar, with information bubbles appearing to tell you what’s going on.
You can click the play button and let the website take you on a grand tour of the areas in development, or journey through them yourself on what VRgini hopes is an immersive sky-high journey.
“The product, which was built in a form of a WebVR information center, and is tailored to serve the overall image and concept of Iskandar Malaysia,” said Abdul Wahab.
Traversing through the website feels similar to that ride you take to enter Petrosains, with information appearing alongside and complemented by the visuals of the up and coming city.
VRgini cited that helping everyone acclimate to technology is what drives the 2-year-old startup forward, despite its many pivots.
“It is fairly easy to provide the latest technologies to a certain city and call it a smart city, but it is absurd to expect its society to adopt to that overnight.”
“When it comes to smart cities, helping society better understand and take up cutting-edge technologies through easier access and hands-on education is the fastest way to build a smart city.”
Safuan Yusof, IRDA’s Director of the Urban Observatory stated that, “Virtual Iskandar will showcase what we are today as we progress to become a metropolis of international standing.”
This version of the site is currently in phase one, with other upcoming phases looking to expand its immersive information center with other views (perhaps closer to the ground) and more detailed information about the region.
Big numbers may sometimes seem like a bunch of words on a screen for us, so we think that it’s interesting that both Iskandar and VRgini are attempting to convey these numbers to us with a visual, almost real-life aid. The virtual journey is even accompanied with epic music that they hope will complements the visuals.
While the journey was interesting, I’d be more interested to explore a closer to the ground experience of Iskandar, perhaps even see what it would be like to explore Iskandar as if we’re walking along the city—a more immersive experience.
Since they’ve embarked on this project, VRGini is hoping to create an urban data information center covering the whole of Malaysia, with an aim of revolutionising how that information is shared.
You can experience Virtual Iskandar on their website here.