Augmented reality (AR) has proven its value across multiple industries and has demonstrated that it can be leveraged beyond the realms of gaming and entertainment. As such, the AR/VR market is expected to see a 77% CAGR from 2019-2023. In retail, brands are adopting augmented reality to enrich the online shopping experience, allowing shoppers to see what an item (e.g., a piece of furniture or appliance) might look like in their own environment. In healthcare, AR is being used to visualize organs or simulate procedures. Surgeons can use AR to project 3D representations of a patient's anatomy to improve accuracy and outcomes.
AR has also been making waves in the construction industry. When leveraged properly, augmented reality can help you win more projects, collaborate with team members, and even improve safety.
Taking advantage of augmented reality in construction requires a solid understanding of the technology’s capabilities and use cases. And this is exactly what we’ll discuss in this article. Below, you’ll learn about the role of AR in construction today and in the future. You’ll also see examples of companies putting AR to good use, so you can get inspired in your own efforts.
Augmented reality or AR refers to technologies and experiences that bring computer-generated objects into the user’s physical environment. AR is typically powered by mobile applications, headsets, and other smart devices that superimpose digital objects into the real world.
In construction, AR can be used in everything from project planning to communications. Consider the following use cases:
Project presentation. AR can layer certain details and elements onto a building plan so stakeholders can get a better understanding of the project. AR can also be used to showcase 3D models and even provide tours, giving clients a solid idea of what a building would look like before it’s built. Want to show the client what a new installation would look like on-site? AR can also bring that vision to life.
Progress capture. Augmented can be used to track and document how projects are progressing. There are several solutions in the market that let construction pros capture project progress. These apps use your device's augmented reality features to identify where you are in the floorplan and automatically take pictures at every capture point. Doing so ensures that team members always capture at the exact same location over time, thus improving progress capture efficiency and accuracy.
Better collaboration. AR can streamline collaboration in remote environments by letting teams share 3D images and videos with team members who aren’t on site. Thanks to augmented reality, stakeholders can view images or videos in greater detail so they can identify errors or issues without having to be in the actual building location.
Enhanced safety. AR technology can also improve safety on the jobsite. Some AR devices (like glasses or mobile devices) can scan tags or labels placed in specific areas or objects. These labels can then bring up text or even 3D models to communicate safety or hazard information.
Construction training. When it comes to teaching people on how to use complex equipment or heavy machinery, AR can assist educators through life-like demos, so workers can see equipment in action before heading to the site. Firms can also use augmented reality to demonstrate hazardous materials or situations without exposing team members to the real thing.
In many ways, the future of AR in construction is already here. The technologies that enable the above-mentioned use cases already exist, and several firms are starting to test and refine various augmented reality initiatives.
The most forward-thinking players are taking things to the next level by implementing mixed reality (MR). MR combines augmented reality with virtual reality (VR) by enabling users to be immersed in virtual content while still being aware of their physical environment. MR combines the best of both worlds, so you can see and interact with digital elements without getting lost in a completely virtual environment.
MR enables stakeholders to collaborate better. People in the same room can tour a virtual model or site while still interacting with one another in the real world. On the jobsite, MR can assist workers with installations and repairs by letting them view instructions then overlaying that information onto the things that they're working on.
The future of augmented reality in construction is going to be bright, but it’s also important to remember that we’re still in its early days. In a survey and trend analysis of AR and VR adoption, researchers found that “the AEC industry is far behind other industries such as healthcare and retail in adopting AR/VR technologies.”
That said, the researchers are optimistic and point out that the industry is starting to shift towards greater adoption. The results of the study indicate that AR and VR technology use in the AEC industry will see "strong growth" in the next 5 to 10 years.
Ultimately, a wider adoption of AR will be driven by two things: the willingness of construction pros to go through digital transformation and the maturity of AR tech itself.
Fortunately, we can already see these happening today. The events of 2020 forced construction firms to work remotely and adopt digital solutions, so the industry is primed for disruption. And in the world of AR, companies are continuously finding ways to improve. Headsets are getting lighter and sturdier. Apps are becoming faster and more intuitive. AR, VR, and MR tech can now be integrated with construction software.
As these solutions continue to mature and progress, so will adoption in the construction world.
You’ve learned about the different use cases of AR in construction; now let’s look at the companies and solutions that are making them happen.
Akular brings 3D models into the user's physical environment. This mobile app enables users to conduct walkthroughs of 3D models in the real world using just a phone or tablet. All you need to do is download the app, upload 3D a model, and see it come to life using your device. Akular offers a great solution for firms that want to show stakeholders life-sized 3D models of a building. And if you need it to fit into a room or space, Akular allows you to shrink the model to fit a confined space.
GAMMA AR is an app that overlays 3D BIM models on the construction site using augmented reality. It allows you to detect errors prior to constructing the building, reducing mistakes and unnecessary back-and-forth between parties. It can also be used to visualize models and designs before it is built.
It is an excellent solution for sharing and presenting construction models, as it allows stakeholders to make smarter decisions, avoid errors, and communicate efficiently.
Arvizio is an enterprise AR and MR solution that offers a wide range of features including import, processing, optimization and hybrid rendering of complex 3D models and LiDAR scans to build and share digital twins with multiple participants. Arvizio’s capabilities pave the way for numerous use cases including design reviews, spatial data management, marketing demos, QA inspections, on-site model alignment and more. And thanks to its multi-user, multi-location, and real-time capabilities, stakeholders can run fully synchronized AR and MR collaborative sessions, helping keep everyone in sync whether using a MR headset or mobile AR device.
Innovative Construction Technology (ICT) is an AR software company that helps general and specialty contractors streamline project installation tracking and reporting. ICT Tracker is a model-based and easy to use production app that digitizes data collection on iPads in the field. It immediately delivers comprehensive data in easy to read reports to improve ongoing project status knowledge across the entire project team. Contractors can easily compare BIM or 3D models against current installations and eliminate the need for manual tracking or takeoff. Unlike scanning or 3D images, ICT Tracker captures comprehensive real-time data to better understand current installation status and identify scheduling, production, and cost issues to prevent margin slip.
The Wild is a collaboration platform that helps teams work together using AR and VR. The Wild offers support for Revit and BIM 360, letting you bring your entire team into a virtual workspace, where you can review designs, add markups, and spatially communicate with your team. It works on desktop, mobile devices, and VR headsets allowing users to collaborate from anywhere. Thanks to The Wild, teams can speed up design reviews and stay aligned throughout the whole process without having to be in the same room.
VisualLive offers a range of applications that "bring the power of CAD/BIM out onto the jobsite." The company offers AR and MR solutions on HoloLens 1 & 2, Android, and iOS making it easy for AEC pros to push design models onto their AR/MR devices (e.g., headset, iPhone, iPad, Android). VisualLive has plugins for Revit and Navisworks, enabling users to bring their CAD build BIM onto the construction site. See their integration into Autodesk Construction Cloud here.
Augmented reality will be a big part of the construction industry in the years to come. If you’re not leveraging this technology yet, start exploring ways to do so. Look up solution providers and find opportunities to use AR in your projects. When you set up the foundation today, you’ll be well equipped to compete in the future.