Using virtual-reality headsets, designers are creating sophisticated urban environments that they hope could allow young people to have a more active role in urban planning.

In May, Oliver Dawkins wowed the crowds at an architecture exhibition in east London. The UCL student had designed a 3D rollercoaster ride for the Oculus Rift headset – mimicking the acceleration, sharp turns and vertiginous drops of a real ride in immersive virtual reality.

“You can always show the static models of planned developments to architects, planners and city mayors,” said Martin Zaltz Austwick, who lectures in visualisation at Casa. “But with virtual reality, you can take dynamic models out to community groups, allowing for participation. What is interesting about Oculus Rift is that it is very immersive – it’s very compelling. It represents a quantum leap in virtual reality.