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Reasons to be Pumped About Augmented Reality on the Construction Site

Posted by Dan Dolinar on Thu, Jul 18, 2013 @ 11:07 AM
Dan Dolinar
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Augmented reality (AR), or the ability to view physical, real world building environments with elements augmented by computer-generated sensory input (sound, video, graphics or GPS data), is all the rage on construction sites.  AR applications are generating a buzz and quickly gaining momentum on active jobsites near you.

Adding to the hype, our BuildTechnocrats decided to gin up some reasons why you should be completely pumped about AR.  If you recall from earlier posts, these BuildTechnocrats are early risers and thinking about this stuff before the general public turns off the snooze button.  They have a taste for tech and want you to join in the excitement.

Before we get started, let’s set the stage for augmented reality.  During the early discussions in discovering a project’s requirements, architects, engineers and construction professionals collaboratively develop a three-dimensional virtual building environment.  This virtual environment allows you to “pin” construction site spots that serve as markers for BIM software programs.

Augmented Reality in Construction

The virtual environment provides a visual representation, which “pins” a structure’s position into the real world through GPS. With the help of AR technology (combining computer vision and object recognition) and model information about the building and its site, the environment becomes interactive and can be digitally manipulated.  The BIM model provides information about the building and it’s environment, which can be overlaid, with the project’s planned site.

You may already be imagining the possibilities. Let’s discuss the reasons why you should to be equally excited and discover why industry professionals are buzzing about augmented reality:

  • Jobsite personnel have the ability to readily access and reference a project’s orientation prior to construction. These pins orient an iPad or tablet device to the same point on the building’s model and allow the user to make the connection between the model and where construction will occur. When these pins are recognized with an iPad or tablet, the model for that specific site location is displayed.  Slowly rotating the tablet in the space will allow the user to view the future space via model at that specific location. Site professionals can view on their iPad or tablet exactly how the finished environment will appear. We no longer have to imagine the structure’s orientation with a flat drawing.
  • Jobsite personnel have the ability to access and reference the latest building model in real time. You will find some construction sites have rolling carts fashioned with flat screen monitors and printers for construction professionals and jobsite personnel to access BIM models in real time. The one hiccup occurs when the building begins to take shape.  In the open, pins can be recognized with GPS.  However, once the building begins to become enclosed, GPS does not work.  It is only a matter of time before the industry gets through this hiccup and makes the shift from paper plans to real-time access via iPad or tablet.
  • Project teams have the ability to transcend language and distance. No matter where these projects are being built, the advent of augmented reality transcends both language and distance barriers.  Tradespeople now have the ability to have a three dimensional visual reference for how a structure needs to be built. 
  • Facility managers have the ability to access information about the finished structure. Today, facility managers and maintenance personnel can access building systems and scan the area with their iPad or tablet.  Scanning the area will access information about the building’s systems including the last recorded maintenance and identification of internal components.  Augmented reality provides information on the system’s design and, if a repair is needed, provide links or references for part replacements and/or assistance.  This functionality replaces the wretched “Owner’s Manual” and provides knowledge about the systems running the facility in a real time three-dimensional view. 

If you are excited about the idea of augmented reality and the industry’s direction with incorporating real time access to three-dimensional models, you may also be interested in reading 7 Reasons Why Mobility is Mandatory on An Active Construction Site.  This article discusses the increasing adoption of iPads and tablets among superintendents, foremen, MEP coordinators and subcontractors alike.

Topics: Mobile Devices, Augmented Reality, Construction Technology