Augmented Reality in the AEC Industry

How will Augmented Reality change the way we do work in the AEC Industry?

In the past couples years, we have started talking more and more about how we use virtual reality (VR) in the AEC industry. A term that always seems to go hand in hand with VR is augmented reality (AR). The misconception is that they’re interchangeable terms with one another. While they are both new uses of technology VR submerges you into another word while AR uses VR to supplement your surroundings. AR has become an extremely popular topic since the release of Pokémon Go. And others are quickly following suit such as Yelp’s Monocle app. So why should the AEC industry care about this?

Augmented Realty opens up another world of possibilities for the AEC industry especially construction. A possible future use is wearing safety glasses with AR lenses. Once developed, wearers of the glasses could pull up instructions for the work they are completing. These instructions would lead to more standardized work since everyone performing the task would have the same set of instructions. This would be especially helpful for the younger tradesmen just stating out in their careers.

From a safety standpoint, Superintendents managing the site could send out alerts to everyone’s augmented reality if an issue were to arise elsewhere on site. The message could relay directions if needing to evacuate the building or it could be a message simply letting everyone know the current conditions on site. Similarly, Superintendents walking the site could identify any existing issues with work already completed and notify the respective trade building a punch list without writing it down. They could also pull up the latest drawing sets and overlay them with what has already been built. This would help to mitigate potential issues by identifying future clashes, which can occur with design changes.

Augmented Reality can also enhance the materials presented to the client. It can be difficult to image how the final built product will look within the current environment. Models can be developed to pull up on an iPad or tablet when viewing the site in real time. Before construction, owners could virtually walk through the site as if they were walking through the building. The screen (through use of a camera) would show the existing real time conditions over laid with the objects in the room starting with where the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) work would go, followed by framing, drywall, and finishes. This brings the project to life before it’s even built.

While all of this sounds great, the technology still needs to be more fully explored. The first obstacle for AR glasses is making sure the lenses are up to the safety standards of today’s traditional safety glasses. Next we need to make 100% sure the information is accurate. If the visual display shows that there is a pipe underground, the display should show exactly where it’s located so unnecessary damage does not occur when completing a task. Despite some concerns like these, we’re excited to see what the future holds and how it will enhance the AEC industry, especially in the field.

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