Augmented reality (AR) is an interactive experience with physical reality. AR interacts with the real-world environment, overlaying real objects with computer-generated information. This usually functions in the form of visual interaction, however innovations have also stemmed to haptic, auditory, olfactory, and somatosensory. AR was made publicly popular through the entertainment sector, particularly with Pokémon’s AR mobile game Pokémon GO, in 2016.
Augmented Reality, however, has recently broken onto the architecture and construction scene. Augmented reality benefits not only the architects and visionaries, but the entire construction team. While virtual reality creates an entirely independent image from physical reality, augmented reality interacts with the environment you are in. This is an amazing
innovation for construction, as you can interact virtual architectural elements with a real construction site. This results in a reduction of errors, and saves money, time, and resources.
Building Information Modeling (BIM) has been the most popular for architects and construction sites for the last few decades. BIM creates digital representations of a construction, with functions and tools to accurately display physical and functional characteristics of a place. This has served the construction industry well, helping visualise how a construction will function in a space. BIM serves a variety of industries. Design, construction, and utilities, including gas, water, electric, and refuse. However, BIM has its limitations. There is still a great deal of room for error, and issues that occur during construction can waste a lot of time and money, forcing architects to return to the drawing board.
Augmented Reality, therefore, serves to provide a more accurate depiction of constructions. Companies can get a realistic view of how installations and materials will function within a building, in a more interactive way that the digital drawings of BIM can present. AR can demonstrate what the building will look like, how it will interact with the environment, and how it will be maintained. This innovation can also, unlike BIM, visualise areas of weakness and dilapidation clearly. Engineers are able to understand clearly how the environment that the building will be constructed and functions. Areas of stability and instability, and water flow. AR embraces the natural environment, human use, and cost into one reality. It allows consistent assessment, research and development during construction processes, helping to assist quick decision changes and innovation.
One amazing innovation of construction AR was created by DAQRI. They manufactured a Smart Helmet which can visualise projects in immersive augmented reality. Construction teams can compare their progress with the original design, keeping the company in sync with the workflow digitally. It features a hard hat combined with smart AR glasses. It uses 360 cameras to analyse the environment and allows you to project digital imagery onto the construction site. What makes this AR tool so unique however, is, in fact, the helmet.
It demonstrates, perhaps for the first time, that AR can expand further than just video games. AR is bringing innovative technology to real life situations and every day workplaces.
The DAQRI helmet produces real-time information on mobile hardware. It’s sensory and technological functions include inventory recognition, data visualization, step-by-step instructions, and reference materials and training. An extremely valuable function on the helmet is its thermal vision. This has two-fold importance. The ability to detect temperatures around you holds value on a production level, ensuring the right materials are used for these varying temperature areas. However, it also holds value on a safety level. Workers will be able to detect high or low temperatures in the workplace, ensuring a reduction in workplace injuries. This combination of technologically advanced production and safety fits the motivation behind DAQRI’s Smart Helmet: ensuring safety through a hard helmet while promoting innovation through smart glasses.
In an interview with Brian Mullins, CEO of Daqri, he explains more the motivation behind creating the Smart Helmet:
‘What we’re really focusing on is the future of work and what work is. We think augmented reality’s strength is the opportunity to empower workers, to make better decisions in the context of their doing.’
‘The market opportunity for AR is huge … connecting machines, people, and data together in the world … Augmented reality is really the user interface of bringing those things together and making them actionable.’
This product has revolutionised the construction world, and its value in improving safety and the efficiency of construction is unprecedented. However, Brian explains that this should not remain in the hands of construction workers. He predicts that ‘augmented reality will be on everyone’s head’ in the near future.