Augmented reality (AR) is quickly growing and being adopted in ways that aid companies in improving the consumer experience, reducing overhead costs and increasing their ROI. The construction industry is the latest one to add the technology to its fold, as AR is helping solve many challenges that architectural firms and designers face in the building process. Instead of waiting until after a building’s layout is complete to make adjustments, architectural firms can use AR tools to fix any mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) issues in the design phase.
There are no limits to how far the technology can go in the industry, from explaining design plans to local governments by letting them see the final product from the beginning to showing clients logistical roadblocks and offering alternatives. In fact, developers are already making waves with innovative augmented reality applications that streamline a slew of work processes and overcome challenges construction companies usually face. Let’s take a closer look at precisely how construction firms are using augmented reality apps to improve building projects.
AR Helmet for Industrial Fabrication
One early iteration of AR technology in construction is the DAQRI Smart Helmet, a wearable device with AR capabilities that is being used for industrial fabrication. The goal is to allow builders, engineers and designers to take their Building Information Modeling to the construction site for a fully immersive 3D recreation of their ideas. The DAQRI offers a realistic view of what the structure will look like in its full size.
The device includes three cameras that work in unison, adjusting to the user’s vantage point and creating an augmented version of the geometry around them. Architects can look at this virtual content and change the model design accordingly. The DAQRI Smart Helmet includes AR software with remote controlling features, as well as a web browser and a media gallery that can be viewed remotely.
All in all, the smart helmet allows construction crews to look at multiple layers of the building by letting them see through walls and get a better idea of the structure’s dimensions. MEP issues can be addressed in real-time with the device, paving the way for more informed decisions and reducing error margins.
The wearable device and its software are among the early adopters of AR technology in the construction world, opening the door for app developers to create new ways of visualizing and adjusting the different facets of a structure during every step of the building process.
Improving Project Outcomes with Augmented Reality
Another company that has made strides in the implementation of AR for construction purposes is Mortensen. The firm hired a team of 60 workers in its reality capture division to develop an app that engages clients with realistic 3D models of their building ideas. The idea is to create an immersive version of a building before construction even starts.
This app works in a similar way as Pokemon GO, allowing users to point their smartphones at construction sites and see how they have been digitally transformed with AR. One site is a computer building in the University of Washington, where users with the app on their smartphones can look at the finished product before its 2019 launch date.
McCarthy Building Companies are working on a similar initiative by using video game technology to develop an app that shows clients what a room or building will look like inside and outside. Clients can use this information to make any changes they want in advance, helping reduce waste and unnecessary costs. The firm uses drones to scan the building site with lasers then uploads it into a virtual reality headset, creating a virtual walk-through of the location.
Because different buildings are used for different purposes, McCarthy’s models vary from client to client. This is the case with its recent hospital construction project, which helped ensure hallways were wide enough to stretcher patients throughout the building. Similarly, other rooms were designed to ensure that healthcare workers could perform their jobs successfully.
Microsoft’s HoloLens and AR App
Perhaps the most advanced AR application in the construction world comes from Microsoft. The HoloLens was developed to ensure construction workers have access to the building’s blueprints at all times through the wearable lens, which requires zero paperwork and follows safety regulations. Thanks to its teleconferencing capabilities, users can talk to each other using the lens regardless of how far apart they are. Workers also see a 3D model of the finished building in the environment, giving them a realistic idea of how to proceed with their work.
The HoloLens comes with an AR app that allows users to view a building’s design on a 2D screen or see it in 3D on a flat platform such as a table. As such, users can zoom in and out on different parts of the virtual building to get a full-fledged idea of everything that’s going on. Even the materials of the building can be seen, including material compositions and beam placements in new structures. This makes it easy for project managers to see what areas need reinforcement. When the device is paired with the mobile software, app owners can view a live stream from the device’s point of view, remotely start and stop apps, take mixed reality photos and videos and more.
The HoloLens also addresses the ever-present issue of MEP by separating layers of the virtual building with different colors, allowing workers to hone in on the various elements of a structure. Project managers can make alterations to the building’s design in real-time since the 3D model is flexible and adjustable. Plus, it offers a guided checklist of everything workers need to do, in the correct order. The HoloLens can be used in worker training and for inspection purposes as well, ensuring everything is up to par. When used in tandem, the device and the AR app streamline the construction process by allowing users to make necessary adjustments and monitor progress in real-time.
Augmented reality technology is certainly taking the world of construction by storm. If you’re looking for a company to develop an AR app that will meet your needs, you should choose a development team with extensive experience in emerging technologies. The SevenTablets team creates custom augmented reality apps technologies for businesses. We’re also well-versed in other cutting-edge technologies, such as virtual reality, predictive analytics, blockchain, artificial intelligence and natural language processing.
Reach out to our team today!
Shane earned a B.S. at Texas A&M (whoop!) and studied mathematics as a graduate student at Southern Methodist University.
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