Slowly but steadily, augmented and virtual reality are making their way into the construction sector. Although, construction has been slightly late to the digital party it has made an entrance with a bang. Despite contributing $684.40 billion to the US GDP, it’s one of the least tech-savvy industries, with rulers and clipboards still popular tools at construction sites. However, with COVID-19 hitting, things have turned positive as more companies take the technology route. Read on to learn more about virtual and augmented reality and how it is used in the real estate and construction industry.
Augmented and Virtual reality have been making waves in the construction industry for a while. “AR combines one’s physical surroundings with computer-generated information and presents it in real-time using advanced camera and sensor technology,” according to BigRentz.com, an equipment rental network. Used in video games for years, this technology offers assistance in the construction project lifecycle.
“The term 'virtual reality' (VR) refers to a simulated environment in which an interactive computer-generated user experience can take place. It typically uses VR headsets or multi-projected environments, as a means of generating images, sounds and sensations that can simulate a real environment that a user can observe or interact with.”, says Design Buildings Wiki. VR is used in construction to simulate a building or structure before erection so that ideas can be tested and design flaws mended.
These are the various uses of augmented and virtual reality in construction.
Construction workers handle dangerous equipment and complicated techniques every day; therefore, training is mandatory. However, it is impractical and unsafe to train them using real, heavy equipment because of the risks involved and the time and money consumed. This is when virtual reality and augmented reality in construction come into play. VR uses monitors/ goggles to simulate a real-world, controlled work environment, giving trainees a chance to make mistakes and familiarize themselves with the big machines.
Pixo is a company that has been developing infrastructure for hand-held devices since 1994. In 2016 they entered the enterprise Extended Reality(XR) market with multi-user VR and started VR training in 2018. Pixo aims to produce skilled and resourceful workers for construction companies. They use VR technology to create the ‘Competent Person’ who is capable of identifying and tackling hazardous and unhygienic situations. Thus, Pixo helps workers achieve their full potential, reducing accidents, errors, and total cost of risk (TCoR).
Gone are the days of 2D renderings that would give you only a vague idea before the project went on floors. Virtual reality in construction allows architects and designers to see them in an immersive virtual setting before the structure is erected. AR uses Building Information Modelling (BIM) and advanced 3D modeling software to take virtual walkthroughs of works in progress. This will give them a better idea of how the project will turn out and what the obstacles will be.
XYZ Reality, a London-based startup, raised £20m with a mission to change the construction industry through Augmented Reality. They are pioneering an AR helmet that projects holograms of 3D visuals, enabling workers to place objects to a 5mm accuracy and identify minute changes in alignment. This real-time facility will save upto 11% of building costs from errors and eliminate the need for physical floor plans.
Augmented reality in construction saves companies time and money from site visits through off-site experts. By wearing a headset or a pair of goggles, technicians can provide live guidance to workers to identify and tackle problems. In addition, this technology allows companies to get expert technicians on call, allowing them to be in multiple locations at once.
British multinational infrastructure group Balfour Beatty uses AR eyeglasses for site inspections, client meetings, and drone usage. They purchased Vuzix Blade smart AR glasses with a built-in camera that connects to smartphone and tablet hotspots. Within two months of using them at a Texas job site, it made a difference in the company’s response to RFI’s from stakeholders who couldn’t visit locations in person due to COVID-19. In addition, the company conducts hands-free walkthroughs with these devices, which are safer than hand-held smartphones at building sites.
AR gear can be used to measure height, width, and breadth in construction. Companies can use this technology to measure physical properties for improved accuracy in building designs. It will help designers forecast the time, labor, and materials needed for the project. AR gear can also be used on-site to compare building measurements with their models. Timely intervention will help workers steer clear of construction inconsistencies and losses.
In 2018, Google launched the augmented reality app ‘Measure’ which turns smartphones into digital measuring tapes. The simple app tells the measurement when the user points the device’s camera at an object and selects two points. The virtual tape will measure the distance between these two points, which could be height or length. This nearly accurate app shows the margin of error at the bottom of the screen, and works best on devices with good ARCore implementation.
With a global pandemic hitting, virtual and augmented reality demand has shot up in the construction sector. From advanced training simulators to virtual site walks and immersive 3D building models, the uptick in adoption of technology doesn’t seem to be slowing down as new hardware and software emerge.
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