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Augmented and Virtual Reality: A New Look at Construction

Augmented and Virtual Reality: A New Look at Construction
 
As goes technology, so goes the world. In a time of quickly evolving systems designed to increase productivity and decrease waste, it seems nearly every industry is eager to put the latest trends to the test.

Augmented Reality in Construction

Construction has, for the most part, been slow to adapt to and adopt new technology into the everyday workflow. For years, construction companies have taken the wait-and-see approach, not wanting to put the proverbial cart before the horse in terms of implementation. Now, manufacturers’ exceeding expectations are forcing engineers, architects and builders to rely more heavily on technology to meet the demand for increased efficiency and speed. 

Creating a Clear Picture

One of the newest and most technologically advanced inclusions into construction is the use of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). With the assistance of Building Information Modeling (BIM), construction companies are now able to take customers inside their new building, virtually, before the actual construction begins. 
 
“We use various methods of augmented reality in the design and proposal process to give the customer a better look at their future building,” says Emilio Santellan, 3D Visualization Specialist with Gray.
Augmented Reality in ConstructionUsing advanced BIM drawings, specialists can create 3D models of projects, allowing customers to virtually tour their new facility even before the groundbreaking.
Specialists can take 3D BIM drawings and create models that bring the building to life, allowing customers to do a virtual walk-through and interact with the building while wearing special headsets. Through this process, customers can examine the different aspects of a project as well as visualize how a project will fit into the existing surroundings. 
 
This part of the process can also be vital in identifying any potential flaws. By virtually touring the facility, team members will be able to identify and address any potential design concerns to help avoid any unnecessary and wasteful change orders.

Streamlining the Process for AR and VR in Construction

AR and VR do more than just help companies in the planning and proposal process. This new technology is proving to streamline efficiency across the board and throughout different teams during a project. 
 
These specialties have taken the concept of 3D modeling to new heights and made it much more readily sharable. For years, 3D modeling was a complex process that involved building and then physically transporting models. Now, with this new technology, AR and VR models can be quickly and easily distributed across the team to increase collaboration, regardless of location.
 
AR and VR also give construction companies the ability to more proficiently plan for any changes that a customer may request. Specialists can quickly implement design alterations and help visualize those changes for all members of the team. 
 

“I see the construction industry incorporating both AR and VR into a majority of projects, and utilizing real time rendering as a standard,” says Santellan. “I can see AR, in particular, becoming a huge asset to construction crews while they are on the jobsite.”

AR and VR specialists are able to quickly update existing models, giving customers a nearly instantaneous look at proposed changes.

Safety Support

AR and VR are clearly making an impact in the customer-facing side of the construction business, but there are also other, behind-the-scenes improvements this new technology is making to help bolster productivity.
 
Safety is central to success when it comes to construction. Whether you are talking about protocols on the jobsite or designing and implementing a quality program, safety is of utmost importance. Now, safety and technology are partnering to help better equip team members to perform their jobs.
 
“We have also started to work on a potential virtual reality safety training program, in order to help new hires learn proper safety protocols in a controlled environment,” says Santellan. 
 
Through technology, team members could be placed in various scenarios, with potential pitfalls, and be allowed to safely work through the situation. This type of training would provide “real-life” situations for training, without ever putting a team member’s safety in jeopardy. Programs like this would provide invaluable training for new or inexperienced team members and would help reinforce the necessity of safety protocols. AR and VR training will never be able to fully replace a quality safety training program, but, if properly implemented, AR and VR could be a vital support tool.
 
AR and VR are still babies in the world of technology and are just beginning to scratch the surface of their potential. In a short amount of time, AR and VR have already proven to be a crucial addition to the construction industry, and with the rapid rate of growth in technology, they are sure to have an increasing impact on the industry for years to come.
 
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a contributing author and not necessarily Gray Construction.