How Augmented Reality Can Benefit The Construction Industry

Construction Inspection Using Augmented Reality Glasses
Construction Worker with AR glasses. (Image Credit – SRI International)

Over the last thirty years, technology has advanced at such a remarkable pace, improving the lives of millions of people throughout the world by the introduction and development of high-tech devices. These devices have revolutionized the way we think, eat, sleep, and work. As technology advances, we need to move with the times or else we’ll be left behind.

If industries don’t adapt with the technologies and solutions coming to the market, they will be at a disadvantage. One such trending technology is augmented reality, or AR for short. This ingenious method of increasing a user’s ability to interpret reality has been gaining in popularity as companies are seeing the benefits it brings. One industry in which augmented reality would surely be an asset, is construction.

How, you ask? I have done some research and will share with you what I found out. By the end of this article, you’ll hopefully be able to understand just how AR can benefit those working in construction: keep reading!

What is Augmented Reality?

Before we get into how the construction industry may benefit from the introduction of AR, You might probably be scratching your head inquisitively trying to figure out the million-dollar question: just what is augmented reality, anyway? And how does it differ from virtual reality?

AR is a type of technology, which said in a simplified manner, projects a copied and improved version of the world to a user. In this world, the elements of the user’s environments are enhanced by sensory input generated by a computer-like system installed in the device (smart glasses, smartphones, ..)

AR is completely different from virtual reality: in the latter, a simulated and unreal world completely replaces the real world. Whereas in the former, the user still experiences the real world, but in this case, an enhanced version of it. In doing so, the devices afford the user access to digital information through the form of text, audio, and even images.

What’s more, the user is also given direct access to information related to his or her immediate surrounding environment, a concept which was unheard of 100 years ago. Look at how technology has grown, making what was thought to have been impossible a century ago, now possible!

Figher Jets HUD - First primitive forms of AR
Fighter Jet – Heads-Up Display

Although the services which AR brings today are new and still considered by some to be futuristic technology, primitive forms of AR have long been in existence. Fighter aircrafts in the 1990s were using a variation of AR, as display features would pop up indicating how quickly the plane was going, its direction and also the altitude at which it was being flown. Over the next couple years, technology advanced, thereby allowing them to identify enemy vessels which were in the craft’s line of vision.

As the years flew by, companies began to invest heavily in improving upon this technology, hence creating AR-based devices. One of the first major devices to be launched was done in 2009 by the MIT Media Lab’s Fluid Interfaces Group. They launched SixthSense, a gadget which fused the functions of a smartphone, mirror, projector and camera into one unit. In order to control the images seen, a user may tap any one of the four sensor devices installed on the device.

More recently, another major AR-based device to be launched was the Google Glass, which hit the market in 2013. Developed by Google, they decided to bring augmented reality to a traditional device: glasses. Not only do these glasses relay useful information, pictures, and text via their lens, they also respond to voice commands.

As is always the case, the initial release of such devices by brands like Google inspired a host of other companies to do the same. Some doing it more successfully than others. Today, these companies have ensured that augmented reality is something seen not only in glasses, but also in smartphones. AR has even made headway in popular mobile games, namely “Pokémon Go” released in 2016 and more recently, “Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery,” released in 2018.

Why The Construction Industry?

You’re probably trying to figure out what could possibly be the relationship between AR-based technology and the construction industry.

Well, for the record, several companies and industries can derive huge benefits from technology which augments a user’s reality. Including small businesses, local service providers. It just so happens that a few areas where this technology can be particularly useful are in architectural designing, engineering, project management, and just about any and everything in-between which is involved in the construction process.

To provide you with a brief example, a company specializing in air conditioning can incorporate AR-based devices in their pre-installation phases, as in doing so, it increases their ability to execute the job well even before it is completed.

For a more detailed look at how the construction industry may benefit from the inclusion of AR-based technology, keep reading!

Benefits Of Augmented Reality In Construction

Unsure as to how architects, engineers, and even clients themselves may benefit from this technology? We’ve comprised a comprehensive guide to ensure that you don’t get kept in the dark again. Without further ado, let’s get started!

Improves Accuracy Of Project

One of the first benefits of augmented reality in this industry is that it dramatically increases a team’s ability to accurately map out how the project will be done. As we all know, accuracy is an integral part of practically every job in the known world. Which boss do you know likes you to do your job improperly? The answer is none. In doing a task incorrectly, you waste time on two counts; one for the time you lost doing the task wrongly which cannot be recouped, and two for the time you’ll be spending to redo what you should have done correctly in the first place.

Granted, to err is human, and it is impossible for someone not to make mistakes at all. That said, AR reduces the error-gap considerably. With this type of technology, the team can get a step-by-step walk-through of the project, one which encompasses precise measurements and details.

What’s more, those involved in this project get so many details that they, in turn, improve their accuracy, precision, and speed. Also, because the project can be broken down in smaller phases, the team can identify possible errors before they actually happen, thus improving the quality of the project.

Helps You Save Time And Money

One sector of the construction industry which reaps the rewards of AR-based technology is air conditioning companies. They have discovered how AR can make their jobs a whole lot easier, and they’re making full use of it!

Essentially, with AR, these companies can replicate each and every single aspect of the AC system for the construction project, or even for the entire building for that matter. Can you imagine what this means for these companies? The doors that it opens? How easy it makes their job? Not only does being able to see every facet of the unit make the job easier for the contractor, but it also improves the quality of work produced.

What’s more, AR also allows the user to view different architectural models. In doing so, this technology enables the user to easily modify not only the interior of the building but can do so without disturbing its exterior design. What does this mean? Simply put, with a tap of his or her finger, an architect can do virtually anything to the design; remove or add in walls, completely change the design: you name it, they can do it! Isn’t that cool?

Best VR Funny Moments & Fails of 20... x
Best VR Funny Moments & Fails of 2021

Design Analysis

How could I speak about benefits of AR without mentioning how it is like the Holy Grail for designers and architects when it comes to design analysis? Make no mistake, this is an area where AR is extremely useful, and I’m going to tell you why.

Remember I mentioned that AR gives those working in the industry an opportunity to get a step-by-step walk-through through the project, and that in doing so, they can recognize any errors, fixing them before they become reality? The same goes for designs and architects. In doing an extensive walk-through of the project, AR allows them to analyze, assess and evaluate the feasibility and precision of its design. What’s more, should an inconsistency or flaw crop up, the team can make amend to the project’s design, which guarantees success on all ends.

On the money aspect, AR severely narrows the gap for guesswork. Previously, inspections were done only after the project was completed. As you could imagine, any mistake made would signal the loss of loads of money. With AR, because the team has a better insight into the workings of the project, the gap for errors is significantly reduced.

Faster Completion Of Projects

Another huge benefit of AR-based technology is that it speeds-up several processes involved in constructing a building. How so?

Well, for starters, those involved with the project can access virtual models, dramatically improving their insight and understanding of not only the theoretical side of the project, but also the practical aspect as well. Another facet to consider is the fact that because all members of the team are thoroughly oriented about each step of the project, they run through the project faster because everyone is on the same page.

What’s more, these companies can also derive benefit from AR by doing prefabricated construction This is essentially a pre-construction planning method which is known to be less harmful to the environment in comparison to other types of construction techniques. Consequently, this implies that the project will be well-organized and should be executed well, especially when you take into account the fact that money will be saved. Less time = less labor = less money.

Easier Communication With The Government

Another crucial element which AR brings to the construction industry is the ability to facilitate smooth communication between two parties. This is especially true when it comes to conversations with governmental organizations. Too often, there is immense difficulty in having certain building projects approved by the government. In most cases, it is either due to a lack of understanding on the government’s part, or poor communication by the construction company.

At times, we need to see an idea manifest itself before our eyes in order to truly comprehend it. Something about visual cues help some of us to really imagine and comprehend a concept more much so than an audio method can. With AR, a construction firm can thoroughly explain not only the physical, structural elements of the design but also its environmental and social implications. Therefore, government officials are better able to understand the project from a holistic point of view. While this does not necessarily guarantee 100% success rate when it comes to governments approving certain projects, it does increase the company’s chances.

So many times projects are cancelled by the State either due to non-compliance of State regulations, or, in quite a few cases, because people just don’t understand what you want to do. With augmented reality, that’s a thing of the past!

Precise Measurements

It may sound a bit redundant considering that I spoke at length about accuracy and precision, but I cannot overstate the huge advantage which AR brings when it comes to measurements. As we know, measurements are an integral aspect of any type of construction. Sometimes, if you’re off by 1 inch, you can throw off an entire project.

This is where augmented reality comes in. There is AR-based technology which can accurately measure an area’s width, height, and depth, essentially allocating for every dimension known to man in the construction field.

Consequently, when team leaders and project managers take those measurements and input them into their systems, the designs constructed are as flawless as can possibly be! This means that when the team begins working, they save time as they already know the measurements to be taken. Remember, the less time your labor spends on a job, the more money you save!

AR-Based Devices Used In Construction

Now that we’ve listed some of the multiple benefits associated with augmented reality, now it’s time to talk a little about some of the technologies which are presently being used by architects and interior designers to improve the quality of their work. One of these items is particularly popular in this industry.

Smart Reality by JBknowledge

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oKz_LTUUooE

One of the most popular tools to hit the market in recent times is Smart Reality, a mobile AR app which was developed by JBknowledge. Considering that this company is known for their work in the sub contraction world, it comes as no surprise that they decided to create an app which could have helped those in that industry. Available on Android devices, it allows 3D models to be viewed in accordance with the user’s specifications. Even more interesting is the fact that the app also allows the user to get a visual idea of what the project will look like upon its completion. Fascinating, no?

Challenges

This guide would not be complete if I didn’t address the main challenges in integrating augmented reality into the construction industry. One of the main concerns Is the user’s ability to comfortably wear the AR-based devices, be it smart headphones or smart glasses. According to Sam Watts, the director of Immersive Technologies at Make Real, issues relating to the gadgets’ weight constitute a point of discomfort for the user, which can, in turn reduce optimal efficiency on his or her part.

Then, there’s the factor of cost to be included. Depending on the size and assets of a company, investing heavily into securing AR-based technology for the firm might not be in keeping with their budget. As much as it may augur well for the company’s ability to perform tasks, financially, some of them might not be able to afford such technology. In such cases, a Board of Directors should not risk the financial security of the business, even if it means buying something which would enhance their workmanship.

Conclusion

All in all, augmented reality has proven to have immense positive benefits in the field of construction. Apart from dramatically improving a construction firm’s ability to accurately complete a project, perhaps one of this technology’s best assets is the fact that it dramatically minimizes the gap for error, ensuring that money is saved, and that losses are kept at a low.

That said, one needs to adequately assess how feasible it is to invest in securing these types of devices for a company. Financially, if it is costing way too much, perhaps it might not be in your best interest to purchase them. However, if you can, I’d recommend that you take the bull by the horns and see how best these devices can improve the quality of work produced by your firm. You probably won’t regret it!


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Martin Rakver

I am a software engineer and tech enthusiast. During my free time, I like to immerse myself in the world of virtual and augmented reality, which I believe will be more and more prominent in the years to come.

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