Taking a Stroll Through a Digital Recreation of Ueno Park!

A "Digital Ueno Park " has been created using remarkable digital twin technology that reproduces real places in the digital realm. Now that more and more interactions have moved online with the COVID-19 pandemic, there is much to be expected from the new forms of communication that will develop through this digital version of Ueno Park.
Photo: iStock.com/Thananat

A New Global Attempt to Utilize Digital Twins for Entertainment

The Digital Ueno Park opened on March 22, 2022, a complete digitized version of Tokyo's cultural park. With an eye to the post-COVID world, the project aims to create a platform where people can interact and learn both in person and online.

People entering the Digital Ueno Park online can expect to enjoy various forms of learning and entertainment, walking around the park as their avatar selves to enjoy the cherry blossoms or visit the zoo and museums together with friends and family.

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An image of the Digital Ueno Park project. Each user controls an avatar and is able to freely explore the park grounds.

The Digital Ueno Park project, one of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government (the TMG)'s joint projects with universities promoted in FY2021, is a collaborative effort between the Tokyo University of the Arts, the University of Tokyo, and the Office of the Governor for Policy Planning. Professor Kanada Mitsuhiro and Adjunct Instructor Akita Ryohei of the Structural Design Studio at the Tokyo University of the Arts' Faculty of Fine Arts, Department of Architecture are playing a central role in the project, with students and graduate students from Kanada's studio participating in its creation.

The Digital Ueno Park project utilizes a "digital twin," a type of technology that has been the focus of much attention recently. Using 3D scanners and other tools, it maps the data of a real-life location and reproduces a realistic version of said location in a digital space. The technology is already in use around the world, mainly for governments' disaster management efforts and for the improvement of manufacturing efficiency.

"I think this is a unique attempt globally to use a digital twin for people's enjoyment. We'll provide a platform out of Ueno and Tokyo for people from all over the world to enjoy," Kanada says.

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"This project has only been possible because it's a joint project between the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and universities," Kanada continues.

The project leaders had long wanted to create a digital twin of Ueno Park and had begun by first mapping data of the adjacent Tokyo University of the Arts, but once it was adopted as a joint project, they were able to map and save data on the park, zoo, and museums under the TMG's jurisdiction.

Making use of digital twin technology like this also holds meaning as a way of saving data on the way Ueno Park was at the time of its digital mapping. Adjunct Instructor Akita says, "The Ueno Zoo Monorail line has been suspended due to old age, and a new transit system is being considered to replace it. We've mapped the station buildings and railway for the Digital Ueno Park project, so we'd like to create a way for visitors to ride the monorail and enjoy the park just like they did before but in a digital space."

And even though the digital version of the park has been produced based on mapped data, it is a work of art that reflects its creators' personalities. That is why there is meaning behind the Tokyo University of the Arts' involvement, and the fact that the project will be the first to introduce digital twin artistry to the world out of Tokyo is significant.

While the team is aiming to have people strolling around as avatars in FY2022, the Digital Ueno Park project is one that will continue to evolve. It will become a place where not just Tokyo residents but people from all over the world can enjoy the digital twin of Ueno Park alongside new forms of communication both in real life and online.

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Professor Kanada Mitsuhiro (second from the right), Adjunct Instructor Akita Ryohei (third from the right), and students from Kanada's studio who were in charge of creating video images for the Digital Ueno Park project.

The Digital Ueno Park Project
The Ueno Park area has been converted into point cloud data using a 3D scanner and made available as a virtual space to be experienced online. Through avatars, visitors can enjoy strolls through the park and conversations with fellow users. More videos are also available on the Digital Ueno Park project's official YouTube channel.

Joint Projects Between the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and Universities
The Office of the Governor for Policy Planning is supporting collaborative research projects between different universities and other initiatives that contribute to Tokyo's sustainable development and the promotion of the SDGs. The results of the research are meant to be shared with the citizens of Tokyo.

Interview and writing by Onodera Fukumi
Photos courtesy of the Tokyo University of the Arts
Translation by Amitt