During the summer we launched our BuildingPoint UK and Ireland ‘The Future Of….’ Series looking at key trends in digital construction and we decided there was nowhere better to kick off than with Augmented and Mixed Reality – technology that’s truly transforming the way we work!
AR and MR – where are we now?
AR/MR might be regarded as ‘the new kid on the block’ but a quick visit to a TV news report back in 1997 on Trimble shows that this technology has been over 20 years in the making! Development is now continuing apace and in particular, recent software advances are engaging a wider variety of users.
Whilst the current geospatial market for AR/MR is still relatively low, primary research indicates that the construction market will see a 44% increase in the number of AR devices used in 2023 alone.
Here at KOREC, our experiences indicate that whilst initial take up has indeed been slowish, end users love the idea of AR/MR, but it’s only when they adopt it into their workflow that they realise how beneficial it can be to their business.
The level of end user satisfaction is a major driver of this growth and recently, following trials on a major project, a UK company polled 15 users for their thoughts, 71% rated AR (in this case Trimble SiteVision) as 10/10; 72.9% wanted to used it again and an additional 71% saw it as working well as an add on to existing hardware such as total stations.
In the UK, we believe that the adoption of this technology will gather pace and that momentum will be assisted with a greater education on its ease of use and specific benefits.
VR/MR/AR – what’s the difference?
It’s really useful to start with some basic definitions:
Virtual Reality: Think gaming technology for a good understanding of VR. You pull a helmet over your head, and suddenly, you’re inside a virtual world that seems completely lifelike. Fly, run, visit the world, fight, attend concerts or workout in a fully immersive world. However, this technology secludes the user to visualise only digital content and is not suitable for use in a construction/engineering environment where awareness of your surroundings is of utmost importance.
Augmented Reality: Trimble SiteVision technology is a great example of AR, a technology that combines the physical and virtual worlds together by overlaying digital information into the user’s environment, typically via a two-dimensional display. Ideal in our industry for communicating complicated plans and drawings or precisely identifying where concealed assets are.
Mixed Reality: MR technology is a step up from AR; it recognises its surroundings and allows the digital content to interact with the real-world in three dimensions. A leading exponent of this technology is Microsoft’s HoloLens, a headset with transparent lenses for an augmented reality experience. HoloLens allows users to experience 3D holographic images as though they are a part of their environment.
The MR and AR tools you need to know about
Trimble SiteVision works by fusing cutting-edge augmented reality technology with Trimble Catalyst centimetre-precision GPS, to bring 3D design models off the screen and onto site. The end result is a system that allows you to take your design models into the field and visualise them in 3D, all to 30mm accuracy.
Trimble XR10 with HoloLens 2
The Trimble XR10 system incorporates HoloLens ‘hologram’ technology into an industry approved hardhat that is fully compatible with its Trimble Connect cloud-based collaboration platform. The end result is a wearable solution that allows for the visualisation of 3D designs, on site by the user, and remotely by other team members. This approach encourages real-time collaboration and transparency among stakeholders to avoid errors and delays.
Connect AR is an augmented reality app that gives building construction workers even greater accessibility to 3D models in the field. The app runs on Android and iOS tablets and smartphones and allows for easy positioning of AR models in the job site with QR markers.
Microsoft Dynamics 365 Remote Assist
Using Augmented Reality technology such as the Trimble XR10, Remote Assist enables technicians to get in touch with remote experts using a PC or mobile device and collaborate with them in real-time to troubleshoot issues and solve problems.
What problems can AR (Trimble SiteVision) solve?
- 2D drawings can be hard to understand when we live in a 3D world. Architects, engineers, and design professionals can step directly into their buildings and spaces to show stakeholders how their designs might look.
- A utility strike during a project can be dangerous and expensive. AR can be used to locate buried services before digging.
- Setting out a fence line for a project can be delayed if there are obstacles such as trees. AR can be used to check a boundary route before the surveyor arrives.
- Overcome lack of confidence in any existing data. AR allows you to visualise points that you have previously measured in the field and confirm their integrity.
- Avoidance of costly rework – with AR, users can quickly find discrepancies between the model and the current site.
- Better engage stakeholders, wherever they are located, and speed up decision making by showing exactly how a design will look in the real world.
What problems can MR (Trimble XR10 HoloLens) solve?
All of the above plus:
- Reduction in misunderstandings – solve problems faster and speed up decision making through the ability to communicate the mixed reality view with videos and photos rather than email.
- Safety concerns – users can work productively, inside, in safety-controlled environments because Trimble’s XR10 HoloLens is integrated into an industry standard hard hat.
- Reduction in time spent on support and delays – collaborative maintenance, repair, technical support and knowledge sharing can all be significantly improved by running Teams calls using Remote Assist. This means you can bring the experts into the same environment, whilst leaving you completely hands free.
- Reduction of the number of people required to do site inspections and a cut in travel time/carbon emissions. You can record or broadcast progress, problems etc directly to Teams, handsfree, using the XR10.
Not sure? Three examples that show why AR/MR take-up is predicted to rise by 44% next year
Underground at IPC Euston – Skanska brings the benefits inside with SiteVision
At IPC Euston, the Skanska team is using Trimble SiteVision to visualise future design, verify as-builts and plan works for feasibility and buildability in applications that are predominantly underground.
In particular, Trimble SiteVision was used to visualise a new pipework route in the station’s basement. The ease with which the new route could be visualised ensured a far more efficient approach to decision making between clients, designers and stakeholders, with solutions being reached in real-time. For example, the team had received an initial design with a figure for enabling costs. The Skanska MEP team proposed an alternative route at one third of these costs and also reduced the programme by four months.
The Skanska Engineering Survey team and the BIM team assisted in presenting the new route to the client and stakeholders using SiteVision via Teams.
Mercury Engineering adopts MR for a truly collaborative project
Time saved, a reduction in model errors and improved communication are just three of the benefits for Mercury Engineering and their Trimble XR10 technology.
Mercury’s project (an enterprise data centre in Europe covering 7,000 sqm facility and constructed over three floors) is truly international. Whilst construction work is taking place in northern Europe, the client is a multinational company, and Mercury’s offices are located in Ireland, in addition, two key members of Mercury’s BIM team are based in two different European locations.
The ability to share site information with these parties, through videos and images generated by the XR10, has been one of the greatest benefits. By far the greatest feature of the XR10 is the ease with which it allows the Mercury Surveying Engineer to spot any concerns he has with the model and then quickly and clearly communicate these with the remote members of the team.
By using the XR10 generated videos and photographs it is easier to explain a problem and gain a same day response on most issues. Additionally, it would be possible for a remote team to view a live feed via Microsoft Teams and Remote Assist.
FP McCann – Using the Trimble XR10 and Trimble Connect AR
FP McCann is the UK’s largest manufacturer and supplier of precast concrete solutions for applications such as drainage and water management, tunnels and shafts, rail, power and infrastructure etc. They use Trimble Tekla software to create their models.
Connect AR – Before pouring the concrete, FP McCann align their model using a QR code to check the reinforcements Tekla model and against the real thing and view it using Connect AR on a Tablet. If the model is not correct, errors can be spotted at this stage and a £2k repour, along with the generated waste, can be avoided.
Trimble XR10 – FP McCann are also using the Trimble XR10 to again visualise their Trimble Tekla models before they pour.
View it on this video kindly shared by Mark McCann
…and in conclusion
This technology is extremely easy to use and the constant development of the software is a clear sign that manufacturers are heavily backing the use of AR/MR in construction and engineering. The software enhancements, such as Connect AR are opening up applications to non-traditional users such as steel and concrete manufacturers who have no specialist survey experience.
The pieces of the puzzle are now in place and we believe that with good exposure, this technology will change the way we work on sites. Additionally, AR/MR systems are useful tools to attract a new generation of geospatial professionals who have grown up with Smartphones, tablets and sophisticated gaming technology.
For further information please contact Sam Hough, KOREC’s Senior Applications Engineer and Digital Construction & AR/MR specialist.
Follow Sam Hough on LinkedIn