Augmented Reality (AR) is often mentioned in conversations about tech adoption in construction these days. In essence, AR combines the real world with the virtual. Unlike its cousin, virtual reality (VR), AR doesn’t offer an immersive, out-of-body experience. Instead, it typically involves laying digital interfaces on top of the physical world, usually by way of goggles, masks or glasses. It’s a young, versatile technology that’s rapidly gaining traction in the industry as its utility spans everything from collaboration to design to safety.
It’s no flash-in-the-pan, either. The global AR market is expected to balloon to $90 billion by 2020. As various forms of artificial intelligence find their way into construction, the industry has been grappling with ways to get humans and machines to interact better. With the use of AR, workers gain the insight and vision of an artificially intelligent machine. What follows are 5 real-world use cases for AR being used right now across C&E.
1) Safety Training
Safety is paramount in construction. Every worker must be rigorously trained before being turned loose on heavy equipment or scaling a multi-story scaffold, both for their safety and that of other workers and pedestrians. Safety training, however, is costly, time-consuming, and potentially hazardous if it involves an inexperienced worker at the controls. Augmented Reality simulates tools, equipment and other safety scenarios to give trainees a safe learning environment where nobody gets hurt. Thus, they can safely learn from their mistakes. The programs are richly detailed so that the new skills carry over to the real world.
2) Real-Time Project Information
Thanks to AR, field workers can walk a job site at any time and see how the finished project will look. The technology helps an empty shell of a building floor come to life with the location, style and size of windows and doors, pipes, and HVAC systems. Using an AR headset, the worker sees these details as if they were right in front of them; they can compare what they see to the building plan to ensure everything is in order. This can significantly cut time spent correcting minor mistakes like wrong outlet covers as well as major errors, such as incorrect positioning of a door or window.
3) Team Collaboration
Construction is a particularly collaborative industry, but not all contractors assigned to a project can be on-site whenever they’re needed. Augmented Reality allows remote workers to inspect the job site as if they were there in person. It enables real-time collaboration to solve problems and fix errors without having to wait for a particular contractor or decision-maker to be physically present. AR also allows workers to take photos or video of issues, which can be viewed and commented on by remote teams.
4) Project Planning
Advanced 3D modeling software and Building Information Modeling (BIM) have fundamentally transformed the design and planning process. The 2D blueprints and static physical models of yesteryear have been overhauled with digital technology, allowing the creation of fully interactive, collaborative models which allow for great detail. AR lets owners take virtual walkthroughs of buildings in progress, or see how changes will be incorporated in the design without throwing the job off track. Being able to visualize changes’ effect on a project in real-time can help find mistakes early and guarantee every project principal is on the same page.
5) Modifying Projects
When working from a blueprint or other 2D model, it can be harder to spot opportunities for design improvements than with a detailed augmented reality display. Using an AR headset with a digital overlay of a project, engineers can easily change the layout of walls or other essential structural components and systems. AR gives them a view of how those systems work together. It can also show incompatibilities. or instances when a fix will create a problem down the line. Accepted changes update in real-time, so the risk of workers following outdated plans is greatly reduced. Using AR here can avoid budget-killing oversights, lowering the chance for major rework once the project is underway.