Mobile experiments in the city

Forum Virium Helsinki has been exploring how digital services can open up the city, its history and even the city construction plans for the citizens. In fall 2014, pilots were  run to test how augmented reality can be utilized in the urban planning of an old neighbourhood as well as in wayfinding services for the residents and tourists.

The pilots in Helsinki are a part of international Street Smart project, run in 2014. The project was funded by EIT ICT Labs, partnering Nokia, Deutsche Telekom, Telekom Italia, Aalto University, INRIA, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Politecnico di Milano, TU-Berlin, VTT and Forum Virium Helsinki.

Technological adventure game for youngsters

In the spring 2014, a technological adventure game was created for the Millenium-event. A lost laboratory of Professor Millenium invited youth to explore technology. Several schools from the capital area participated in the game and City of Helsinki employees were assisting at the checkpoints. The game was produced and organised by EIT ICT Labs, Forum Virium Helsinki, Nokia HIIT, VTT and TAF.


Exploring future plans of the neighbourhood

Forum Virium Helsinki, VTT and Helsinki City Planning department piloted a new mobile application to visualize construction plans for the citizens. Through VTT’s augmented reality application people got to know the future construction plans for the Koskela hospital area. The application showed how the new buildings would look like in their real environment.


Bitsign shows the way

Just before Christmas, new heart-shaped signs, Bitsigns, appeared in the Kamppi shopping centre. They offered a new way of navigating in the Christmas rush with the help of a mobile phone.

The Bitsign technology is based on augmented reality and developed in the European Institute of Innovation and Technology. The Kamppi pilot was part of EIT Digital’s Street Smart project run by HIIT, Aalto University, Nokia, Robustnorth, Vincint and Forum Virium Helsinki.

A dive into the urban history

In December 2014, Forum Virium Helsinki and VTT tested a new wayfinding concept linking the past and present when strolling the streets of Helsinki. The demo application took the user out on a historic tour, showing how the places used to look like hundred years ago. The photos were fetched from the Helsinki City Museum’s archives.


The original article was published in the Forum Virium Helsinki’s website.


A dive into the history of Helsinki with augmented reality

Inspired by urban history, Forum Virium Helsinki and VTT have been testing a new wayfinding concept linking the past and present when strolling the streets of Helsinki. The demo application takes you out on a historic tour, showing how the places used to look like 100 years ago. The concept was tested with a demo application in December 2014.

With the help of augmented reality, the application offers sightseeing spiced with history, touring the main attractions in the old part of the city center. At location, the app shows photos taken exactly at the same spot from the beginning of 20th century. The photos are fetched from the Helsinki City Museum’s archives.

The app is targeted for tourists, as well as the residents of Helsinki. It can be used with smart devices with a camera. A map shows places and attractions to observe and visit.


When the user is on site and looks through the camera, a historical (2D) photo appears on the screen showing what the place used to look like in the past.

Testing in the city centre

In December 2014, the demo application was introduced for a small test group. The aim was to get feedback, and to test the concept as a whole. The group was lead by developers from VTT, who operated the demo devices and showed the test group how the application works.

The test group was taken through a path with three different points at attractions around the city centre, like the Senate Square. The map showed their location as well as a general view of all the attractions.


In general, user friendliness was seen as the key when further developing the application, not to mention paying attention to the limitations of mobile and safety issues. The users also called for some kind of a “wow effect” to the application. The feedback strengthened the preliminary plans for the service.

“The pictures were only kind of flowing on top of the street view. They should be special enough to bring some extra value to the regular view. Short stories behind the photos would also be intriguing.“

People were also hoping for an audio guide or some kind of sign poles so that they would know where to stand and which way to look when on site. An audio guide would be useful especially for wintertime conditions. For tourists, it would be handy if the application would offer other sorts of information as well.

New usage for archives

The demo application demonstrated how the museum archives do in fact inspire new services. Innovative concepts and applications help to bring the museum contents for wider use. There’s also a lot of potential in the technology for creating new ways to understand the city and its history, narrating the city landscape, and branding the city.

The pilot is part of Street Smart, an international project funded by the EIT Digital.

Pictures: Helsinki City Museum; Noora Suvanto, Forum Virium Helsinki

The original article was published in the Forum Virium Helsinki’s website.

Interactive screens in the Helsinki customer service points

In collaboration with the City of Helsinki, Forum Virium Helsinki has launched an updated wayfinding service in the new interactive screens of the City of Helsinki’s customer service. The screens are available not only for tourists and visitors, but also residents of Helsinki.


The screens are located in the lobby of Helsinki City Hall, The Museum of Helsinki, Library 10, Railwaystation tourist information center, Helsinki Region Transport’s (HRT) service point, the customer service point of the Public Works Department and Helsinki Zoo.

Thanks to the screen’s touchscreen-ability, there’s been a chance to test out and create even more interactive services and flexible trials than before.

The updated service offers residents and tourists current news and information on things happening around the city. One can also check the flow of public transportation on the map. For the content, the service utilizes Helsinki’s open data sources available for anyone.


The services works in several languages: Finnish, Swedish, English and Russian. Officials working for the City of Helsinki can also share their own information on screens, regarding exceptional opening hours, for example. Also, after a user survey, more signage about the touch-screen ability was added as well as little mats inviting people to touch the screens.