According to David Mole, the construction industry needs to be aware of the numerous benefits that augmented reality can bring to project management in terms of saving time and money.
For many people, augmented reality is something out of a science fiction film, not something that can be used in the workplace. However, augmented reality technology is gaining traction and will be widely available within the next decade, similar to the progression of the internet and social media.
Augmented reality, in effect, provides a digitally enhanced view of the world in real time. It allows you to overlay sets of information with other sets of information, providing a more complete picture of your surroundings.
Augmented reality is classified into two types: GPS/compass-based augmented reality and vision-based augmented reality. The GPS-based version uses location data to provide real-time information to the user, whereas vision-based augmented reality scans and provides information using the device’s camera.
Augmented reality is becoming more popular in consumer-facing industries. However, the potential of the technology has not gone unnoticed in the commercial world, and companies are increasingly utilising its ability to provide real-time solutions to practical problems.
Such technology is already transforming the way site assessments and construction projects are managed in the building and construction industry. Current mapping applications, for example, allow users to overlay information, so that you can, for example, plot route and distance information on existing area maps. The British Geological Survey has already created an app that allows users to use their phone’s camera to explore the rock geology beneath their feet.
Landmark Information Group has also recently improved its online mapping software Envirocheck Analysis. This is intended to save time and improve accuracy over manual historic map analysis for Phase 1 environmental site assessments by providing a quick and easy way to overlay current and historical maps and aerial photography.
It is currently only available on the desktop platform, but a mobile version based on augmented reality is in the works.
Current mobile technology can make use of both mobile hardware and software. For example, there are applications that can use a mobile phone’s camera to measure the distance between two objects, calculate other information such as dimensions, and then overlay this data onto photographs and diagrams. Mobile technology also enables those in the construction industry to take detailed notes and information about current projects, as well as images and videos, and share that information with colleagues and others involved. This improves collaboration and expedites the overall process. It will enable junior consultants and those with less experience to receive remote support from more senior members of a team.
Other technologies are emerging that will aid future construction projects even more. Already, video is being used to improve the efficiency of work done in the field. The manner in which video imagery is captured is also evolving. Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) will become more common as they can provide up-to-date, real-time data, allowing environmental consultants to survey locations remotely and save time. Indeed, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved six sites for testing UAVs for commercial use last month. There is also the possibility of using nano satellites to capture and transmit high-resolution images for commercial purposes.
Despite these advancements, the construction industry still needs to seize the opportunities presented by augmented reality. Those in the industry must become accustomed to using technology to solve practical problems and to further develop it. If this occurs, the cost savings and efficiency improvements will have a significant impact on future operating costs.