Locals curious about what the Franklin D Reeves Center in Washington would look like after redevelopment didn't have to wonder for long: all they had to do was scan a QR code on the pavement and hold their smartphones up to the hulking building.

Thanks to the magic of 3D graphics and augmented reality (AR), they could see a sleek glass-fronted space that would, when finished, house the national headquarters of the African American advocacy group NAACP as well as a dance theater, restaurant and more.

"This tool allows you to almost physically see what the future is going to be," said Michael Marshall, the architect for the new development.