December 6, 2021

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Geosyntec Awarded in Waterfront Toronto's A New River Innovation Challenge for WaterfrontHUNT App

Geosyntec delivered innovation and thought leadership for their proposed WaterfrontHUNT App and was awarded first runner-up for Waterfront Toronto's A New River Innovation Challenge.

Waterfront Toronto is building a new mouth for the Don River and created the New River Innovation Challenge with the Port Lands, which called for data scientists and designers to develop creative, compelling, and innovative ways to interpret and communicate this scientific information to the public. The $1.25 Billion project, known as the Port Lands Flood Protection Project (PLFP), will protect 240 hectares of downtown Toronto from flooding, in addition to restoring important ecological areas to support diverse fish and wildlife.

The intent of the challenge was to foster innovation in science communication by stimulating interest and knowledge about how natural systems function, and the benefits they bring to urban systems; to share this information with the people who will use and enjoy the river valley; and to encourage stewardship of the river's water, wildlife and habitats.

Geosyntec proposed a gamified digital augmented reality (AR) application (app), called WaterfrontHUNT, to collect, interpret, and share the environmental data from these new ecosystems to educate visitors and motivate conservation in the wider community. The app would enable visitors to explore details of the Port Lands on mobile devices via an AR environment while they navigate the physical park; and inspire visitors to understand the history of the Port Lands, gain appreciation for the environment, and actively participate in environmental stewardship.

The submission was led by Geosyntec members Elaine Secord; Dave Bertrand, P.G., P.Geo., QPESA; Danielle Thorson, P.Eng.; and Meggen Janes, P.Eng., QPESA (Ontario). The proposed project team was supported by thought leaders (academics from Ryerson, York University and University of Toronto), a video game developer, and youth app testers, to effectively leverage the environmental data applicable to the Port Lands re-naturalization project as well as benefit the community. 

The WaterfrontHUNT app would allow Port Land visitors to elevate their visit by engaging in an interactive environment, and showcase environmental data in a non-technical, accessible-friendly manner to demonstrate the significance of climate positive living. By illuminating concepts about the natural environment to the public, WaterfrontHUNT was motivated by changing the public's mindset on how to achieve environmental stewardship and sustainability objectives through simple actions that would benefit the natural ecosystem. 

The concept of WaterfrontHUNT is based on the growing prevalence of AR apps, most notably, Pokémon GO™, in which the Global Positioning System (GPS) in the user's mobile device locates them in the physical world and matches them to the corresponding location in the virtual map within the app. Different features and activities are unveiled in the app as the user travels. WaterfrontHUNT would allow users to travel around the Port Lands to learn about the environment, incorporating relevant features about the Port Lands' history and socio-economical aspects to provide a full picture of the Don River mouth. This knowledge transfer via the app would be accomplished through point source information with pictures, videos, text, etc. and/or through playing different games or completing activities based on the information.

For example, in the "Clean Up Challenge" activity, users earn points for picking up litter, gaining badges depending on accumulated points. Other engaging features and activities include taking a picture of a spot in the park to build a time-lapse catalogue of images in that location over time and over the course of seasons.

Geosyntec's WaterfrontHUNT app speaks to ecological importance, cultural significance, climate-positive urban redevelopment, and public engagement in a fun, innovative way. Not only would users learn about environmental science while enjoying the outdoors, but they would understand how small actions can make a big difference for environmental conservation, as well as be inspired to live sustainably.

In awarding Geosyntec first runner-up for Waterfront Toronto's A New River Innovation Challenge, the jury noted this submission took a playful approach to the challenge and included social and economic factors that contribute to the history and causes of climate change.

More Information

About the New River Innovation Challenge: https://portlandsto.ca/a-new-river-innovation-challenge/
About Waterfront Toronto: Waterfront Home (waterfrontoronto.ca)
About the: WaterfrontHUNT