With the promise of improved project efficiency, increased worker safety, and simpler ways to design and deliver structures, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are beginning to make waves across the engineering and construction landscape.
By merging the digital and physical view of project sites, these innovative solutions are helping leaders overcome traditional bottlenecks to help complete projects on time and on budget — a constant battle for any business in the industry.
In this article, we’ll explore how AR and VR infiltrated construction and engineering and reveal how these technologies are already benefiting companies.
AR and VR in Construction: Where did it all start?
In construction and engineering, leaders have always searched for new ways of visualising, modelling and analysing concepts. First, they started with a pen, paper and scaled mock-ups. Then, thanks to some extraordinary technological advancements in construction, they began creating objects in 3D environments using CAD software and Building Information Modeling (BIM).
Now, construction leaders and engineers have integrated AR and VR technologies into existing programs to help bring design concepts to life for clients, provide on-site workers with real-time information and drive workforce efficiency.
But how did we make that leap?
Let’s rewind to the start of the so-called “4th industrial revolution” in 2016. One of the most significant technological developments made during this time was the integration of augmented and virtual reality in hands-on industries like construction.
Up until this point, AR and VR had been widely considered an entertainment gimmick, thanks to the gaming headsets and Snapchat filters craze. Slowly, industry leaders began to recognise the usefulness and cost-saving benefits these technologies could bring to the table in a construction setting.
Adoption didn’t happen overnight, however. Even now, we’re still in the early stages of AR and VR integration — but with the pandemic driving digital growth across all industries, it won’t be long before AR and VR technologies are commonplace on project sites across the globe.
Benefits of AR and VR Technological Advancements in Construction
AR and VR have been disruptors in the construction and engineering landscapes for several years now. Here are three examples of how businesses are using these innovative solutions to lead them into a more efficient future.
Superimposing BIM Models
BIM models generate 2D and 3D representations of physical places, including functional characteristics, such as piping, wiring and material information. In recent years, AR and VR have brought these BIM models to life.
Combining BIM with VR technologies creates a more immersive and detailed digital representation of a construction project. Imagine giving your clients the opportunity to walk into and explore a building that hasn’t even been erected yet using a handy headset (for example, Hololens).
Pairing BIM with AR technology works in the exact same way, except the BIM is overlaid on the real world. Not only does this better enable client decision-making, but it also provides an extra opportunity to identify and correct any potential flaws with the building before they become a resource drain.
The construction and engineering industry is filled with complex machinery that requires hours of training to master and use safely. Calling on experts to lead training sessions can be costly and time-consuming, however — and paper manuals are hard to read and absorb.
AR and VR, on the other hand, enable employees to learn in an interactive, dynamic environment. For example, thanks to remote assistance solutions like Fixzy Assist, employees can receive real-time instructions with visual guidance even when the expert is nowhere near the site.
All they need is a smartphone to show the expert the equipment. The expert can then use AI to identify the issue, superimpose their hand onto the worker’s screen and provide step-by-step instructions, just as they would if they were right beside them.
VR is also useful for training, as employers can build a simulation where workers can practice setting up equipment and using heavy machinery without the risk of injuries.
Collaboration often has a huge impact on time and money spent during a project, so it is a vital key in the engineering and construction sectors. Not every worker is going to be on the site all the time, for example — and calling out the required employee can create a bottleneck with workers having to down tools.
With technological advancements like AR, on-site workers can connect with off-site experts easily and virtually. Field workers can share a video feed from their smartphones and receive advice and visual guidance from a remote expert in real-time.
AR-driven collaboration reduces downtime by speeding up decision-making and reduces costs by cutting out unnecessary travel expenses.
The Future of AR and VR in Construction and Engineering
The pandemic has sparked more interest in AR and VR solutions. Businesses are moving away from the “wait-and-see stance” and are beginning to experience the benefits of the digital revolution. And, with the world’s biggest tech companies also investing significant time and money into VR and AR, future developments in the construction and engineering sector are likely to happen quickly.
In fact, AR and VR have the potential to add $1.5 trillion to the global economy by 2030, proving that adoption is showing no signs of slowing down. We expect the integration of AR to accelerate more than that of VR, however, as it’s more accessible for every size of business due to its low entry costs.
The engineering and construction industries are teetering on the edge of an AR and VR revolution, and now is the time to start paying attention.
Envision, Plan, Collaborate with Fixzy Assist
Innovative construction and engineering solutions are set to transform the industry, building a more productive, efficient future. Why not start your virtual journey now with Fixzy?
Fixzy Assist uses AR, machine learning and advanced computer vision to give experts the opportunity to offer over-the-shoulder advice from anywhere.
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