Why communities along the L.A. River, considered 'the original source of life,' are threatened amid the coronavirus pandemic

·2 min read
A new augmented reality project from Verizon Media lets people virtually explore the Los Angeles River. (Photo: Getty Images)
A new augmented reality project from Verizon Media lets people virtually explore the Los Angeles River. (Photo: Getty Images)

The Los Angeles River is heaven to locals who kayak, bicycle and horseback ride along its 51-mile stretch.

According to the city of Los Angeles, the famously comma-shaped body of water is “the original source of life,” once occupied by Tongva and Spanish settlers and now diverse communities. The river has even stood as background scenery in films like Grease and Terminator 2: Judgment Day. But over time, flooding has threatened its bordering homes, costing millions of dollars in damage. Revitalization efforts, however, strive to maintain it as a robust resource.

Through a new augmented-reality app by award-winning production studio RYOT (which is also owned by Yahoo Life's parent company, Verizon Media) and the nonprofit organization River LA, now the river’s historical beauty can be accessed by everyone.

The experience, called LA River AR Platform and further backed by architectural firm Gehry Partners, content studio Vrai Pictures and technology studio Superbright, is an interactive, immersive — and free —mobile experience that educates on the river’s history, including nearby landmarks the Hollywood sign, the Griffith Observatory and the Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall and its diverse neighborhoods.

“Social equity, environmental justice, and equitable development are core tenets for our team at River LA,” Jason Foster, director of strategic partnerships at River LA said in a press release. “To accomplish these goals, the traditional public engagement efforts of the past need technological advances like the LA River AR Platform to reach the one million people that live within the mile of the river, which are primarily people of color. For community members living along the Los Angeles River, the revitalization efforts are not an everyday concern for them. Affordability, homelessness, and now the coronavirus pandemic are priorities and rightfully so.”

“Creating experiences that give consumers the agency to act on their curiosity and ultimately experience wonder through the powerful combination of story and technology has always been at the core of RYOT’s mission,” says Jake Sally, head of development at Verizon Media’s RYOT. “The LA River AR Platform invites the public into the future through their familiar mobile device, allowing them to experience firsthand how technology can be a meaningful and efficient engine to drive important societal changes taking place in their own backyard.”

Related video: Major revitalization planned for lower LA River

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