Augmented Reality is here, and it’s taking the tech sector by storm. The biggest companies in the history of technology are launching new platforms that will define the future of the category: Apple’s ARKit, and Google’s ARCore being the two most prominent recent examples.
But before we all dive head first into the Augmented Reality deep end, you should be assessing what this new technology really means for your design and construction business. What should your company’s adoption curve look like and why? What are the bottom line benefits of introducing Augmented Reality into your current daily workflow and build process?
The good news is that aside from all the bright and shiny AR entertainment and gaming use cases that are flooding the consumer markets, there are a surprising number of incredibly impactful usage models that, simply put, will save you time and money and vastly improve the quality of your employees’ work product.
In this brief, we’ll investigate how Augmented Reality can be used on the construction worksite by both designers and construction professionals, and highlight some of the challenges and potential solutions available to making AR part of your everyday process.
Fact: every error made during the BIM design phase that isn’t preemptively recognized in the field costs money and time to address onsite. These errors can impact an entire build by disrupting finely tuned dependencies in the project schedule that now need to be addressed and reworked with additional builder time and materials.
Enabling your team with an augmented reality solution onsite allows them to quickly conduct onsite inspections using a virtual 3D model that can be overlayed on the real-world build. This means your teams can identify potential build errors before they occur, or collaborate on design elements that may cause confusion by validating them with the designer before starting construction.
Augmented Reality solutions also contain a number of useful tools to make your on-site team more effective and efficient. Within seconds, a 3D design can be instantly overlaid on the build site, mapped to 1:1 size, and anchored in place. Your team can literally walk right into the virtual model and inspect full-sized building materials and MEP systems, while getting an accurate representation of material positioning.
When your team has questions regarding a particular design item, they can leave annotations directly in the virtual model that can be viewed immediately by the designer. This vast improvement in real-time collaboration will save your teams hours spent on hand written blueprint notations and long in-person design reviews. With multi-user functionality just around the corner, your teams back at the office will be able to see what your on-site team is seeing real-time to further streamline their ability to identify potential problematic issues in the field and resolve them quickly and accurately.
Other future Augmented Reality features will include the ability to view separate design layers (mechanical, structural, plumbing, HVAC, electrical, etc) individually or in unison. This will allow you to easily turn on and off layers to more easily understand how these systems relate to one another. Your teams will also be able to quickly identify new potential clash issues that may have arisen due to midstream design changes.
BIM metadata will also be available in these Augmented Reality models so your teams can easily identify key characteristics of individual build items in real-time. This will not only make design annotations and suggestions more specific, but it will give your team in the field the information they need to immediately order additional materials.
One question naturally arises when discussing all the amazing benefits of having Augmented Reality technology on your construction site. How do those huge 3D BIM models get onto these resource-constrained devices to be viewed by your teams onsite? The answer lies with a technology platform that is available today from Umbra, a global leader in automated 3D graphics solutions for over a decade.
Umbra’s Composit platform is the only solution on the market that solves this problem. Using our patented cloud-based 3D optimization solution, designers can load huge, complex BIM models into our cloud instance, where we automatically compress and optimize them so they can be delivered directly to any AR device including mobile phones and headsets. The fidelity of Umbra’s optimized models are nearly lossless, and will run at 60 frames per second on all supported AR platforms so the immersive experience will always be completely smooth and seamless.
What if your team doesn’t have a live internet connection on-site? Umbra’s downloadable Pryzm viewer can store a local version of your 3D design right on the client device. So even if your under 6 feet of concrete, you’ll still be able to overlay your AR design over the real-world build and confirm that your next move will be the right one.
In summary, Augmented Reality will change the way AEC companies operate. It will enable both in-office and on-site teams to collaborate more effectively, identify potential errors before they are made in the field, and save enormous amounts of time and money by avoiding costly rework. The Augmented Reality wave isn’t just for consumers. In fact, many of AR’s most valuable applications will be targeted at empowering the AEC industry with easy-to-use, practical 3D visualization solutions that will make every build site smarter and more efficient.