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How are construction companies worldwide using AR and VR

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There are still many out there in industry who believe that augmented reality and virtual reality are technologies of the future, but there are already swathes of construction projects being completed all over the world using AR and VR.

by Adam Savage


 
 

Whether to improve safety procedures, keep costs down or simply enable a new way of visualising data, immersive tech is finding its way into the workflows of numerous building firms, as these lesser-known examples from around the globe show.

Anglian Water (UK)

UK-based public utility company Anglian Water’s @One Alliance division has long been responsible for designing and constructing water and water recycling treatment centres across the East of England. It regularly comes under pressure to make its workflows more efficient and cost-effective, and often looks to technology to make gains in these areas.

On one occasion, they wanted to find a way of enhancing early-stage visualisation and efficiency of their design and delivery processes by converting their existing 3D CAD models into a more immersive format.

VR technology has enabled construction and operations staff to identify design consistencies that previously would not have been noticeable when interacting with the 3D model using other methods. It has also become an important collaboration tool, with team members no longer needing to travel long distances for face-to-face on-site meetings; instead they can interact through VR software and provide instant feedback.

Freiham, Munich (Germany)

Plans for the new Freiham district in Munich, Germany are now being brought to life using augmented reality. Users are able to visualise the proposals for the large-scale development in two different modes – one for viewing interior work spaces and another for taking in the wider physical environment from a distance.

As well as being able to see what the buildings are set to look like, it is also possible to spot where key public transport features will end up once the work is completed, while innovative geodata services provided by the City of Munich have enabled the creation of a 3D twin of the district, which is already in operation and will be expandable as the development progresses.

Kaiser Permanente (USA)

VR and 360-video solutions are also starting to become more desirable for hospitals and other medical institutions including Kaiser Permanente, one of the largest non-profit hospital organisations in the United States.

According to Mortensen, a Minnesota-based developer and engineering service provider with several medical clients, it is a common issue that surgical teams struggle to envisage whether a procedure room set to be built will offer the features they need. So when it was decided that a new radiology room was required, the hospital leaders needed to find a way of making sure the medical teams were happy with the proposed build.

Mortensen opted to build the new facility virtually, ensuring it matched the design specs precisely, which allowed all key stakeholders to step inside the space, visualise and interact with it closely and suggest changes if necessary before the design was finalised. Because in these situations it is considered critically important that surgical personnel are completely satisfied with the environment they’re working in and decision makers like to make choices about room design very early on in the project compared to other sectors, VR is emerging as a powerful problem-solving solution.

Larsen & Toubro (India)

Injuries caused by unskilled labourers not following safety precautions properly on-site remains a problem for many construction companies worldwide and can result in loss of time, materials, and in extreme cases, life. Traditional training procedures can also be expensive, time-consuming and ineffective, with the severity of the dangers often struggling to hit home with the participants.

Indian construction company Larsen & Toubro was looking for a new approach to training that would lower their costs and have a greater impact on the trainees. It was decided that VR technology would be used to create virtual reproductions of real-life scenarios to make the way it educates its workers about safety more efficient. The Google Cardboard-based solution, paired with an Android smartphone app, was chosen mainly for portability and cost-effectiveness.

Results showed that safety awareness had increased by 90%, with safety costs down 60%. L&T also claims that accessibility of the training has increased seven-fold (due to the portability and offline capabilities of the solution meaning it can be used in more remote locations), while the recall factor among the workmen has shot up as well.

What we see here is just a taster of what’s possible with VR and AR on a huge variety of build projects, and as the industry continues to gain awareness of the possibilities, we will soon see that where we are now is only the beginning.