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“Seeing Through the Walls”: 3 Uses of Augmented Reality in Construction

Augmented Reality in Construction

Digital technologies drive optimization, boost efficiency, cut costs and environmental impact. As the advanced economies are racing to embrace the new industrial revolution, also known as the “Industry 4.0″, construction remains one of the least digitized sectors.

With a global spend of around USD 10 trillion on construction-related goods and services, construction is one of the world’s biggest sectors. When construction isn’t digitized and literally follows a brick-and-mortar model of development, its consequences are dire. Large projects often take 20 percent longer to finish than scheduled and are up to 80 percent over budget, according to McKinsey. These also strain the profit margins, which are among the lowest in any industry.

Augmented reality (AR) is a technology that composites a view by creating a computer-generated image on a user’s view of the real world. It “augments” a real-world environment through an interactive experience, which can include visual elements or other sensory impressions like hearing, touching, or smelling. Not unlike playing a video game, the users wear an AR device that orients to their point of view.

In construction, augmented reality enables the combination of virtual architectural designs with the physical reality of a job site. The three following outcomes of augmented reality in construction are among the manifold ways these technologies can change the future of the sector.

1. Supercharging Project Visualization

Augmented reality goes beyond the 3D models to minimize the unpleasant surprises before they occur and provide quasi-supernatural qualities.

The construction employees wearing the AR device can see through the walls. From erecting a building’s skeletal frame to drilling small holes, they have control over all outcomes of the construction process. This holistic perspective eliminates doubts and errors while facilitating faster and more cost-efficient projects.

Thanks to augmented reality, construction managers can oversee their projects to the most vivid detail, and it can benefit interior designers too.

2. Taking Team Collaboration to the Next Level

Construction sites can be chaotic, messy, and noisy places. The complex process of putting up a building requires many different skills; on and off the construction site. Thus, it’s not uncommon for construction companies to have collaborative challenges or experience a disconnect between the fields and headquarters.

Thanks to augmented reality, employees can minimize these gaps and benefit a more efficient team collaboration. Field workers can send AR-enhanced notes, video feeds, and other data to their remote colleagues. This way, workers can address potential issues before they arise, consult each other, and avoid the costly errors that have been plaguing the construction sector.

When team members communicate using accurate, real-life models, no one needs to do guesswork. Hence, all employees can channelize their talents and creativity into bringing the most out of the building project.

3. Improving Workplace Safety

Safety is a common challenge and concern in all workplaces. However, on construction sites, accidents happen more frequently than most other professional environments. In the United States, 20 percent of all workplace fatalities occur in the construction sector.

AR can help to reduce these figures. It can help teams prepare and check for safety hazards before the work even begins. These technologies also enable inspectors to identify the dangers in the worksite more efficiently.

Construction employees behind complicated and potentially dangerous types of machinery can also tap into AR to learn to operate them safely. AR not only saves time by helping them to learn these operations faster, but through the immersive experience, operators eliminate the risk of harming themselves or others.

Augmented Reality to Help Address Productivity Issues

Augmented Reality in Construction

According to McKinsey, since 1945, productivity in manufacturing, retail, and agriculture has grown by as much as 1,500 percent. In the meantime, productivity in construction remained almost the same.

For future sustainability and growth, it’s imperative that the construction sector, which accounts for 13 percent of the world’s GDP, addresses these issues.

AR blends theory and practice smoothly. Thanks to its multi-sensory features and the ability to integrate the virtual designs with the realities of a construction site, augmented reality is a unique fit to help the leaders to overcome their sector’s challenges.

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