ALTERED REALITY: Bringing Data Coordination into the Field
by Shaun Patchell, VDC Specialist, LF Driscoll
Augmented, virtual and mixed reality tools have blurred the lines between the digital and physical worlds of construction, allowing for more efficient data management, more effective models and enhanced collaboration. Realizing the value of this cutting-edge technology, we’ve started experimenting with the Microsoft HoloLens to streamline one of the most time-consuming processes for construction managers: installation verification.
The current verification process involves a full 3D laser scan of the space, which is then imported into modeling software, translated to a clash-detection program and finally reviewed back in the office. This complex method produces an enormous amount of data that requires time and expertise to convert into useful information. Thankfully, altered reality tools like the HoloLens can eliminate some of these steps.
Unlike virtual reality goggles that immerse individual users in a completely digital environment, and augmented reality tools that project digital objects onto the user’s physical environment, the HoloLens is a mixed reality headset that combines these two systems. Integrating AR and VR capabilities enables the device to place holographic objects into the user’s physical surroundings which they can interact with using gesture, gaze or voice commands.
Designed to maximize efficiency, the HoloLens allows 3D models to be exported directly to the mixed reality environment, completely cutting out the data coordination steps. This seamless transfer of information is a game-changer when it comes to verification and clash detection. The project team can immediately picture the design models on a floor-by-floor basis, see where elements are supposed to be installed and verify whether the subcontractors have done so correctly—without even leaving the field.
The HoloLens also adds value to our models. Revit or Navisworks models can be imported to the headset and be used for field verification, design or editing. Armed with MR technology, the team can quickly edit digital mockups and see the impacts in a 3D space. Considering the time and labor that goes into building each of these virtual representations, extending their life and usefulness into the field is invaluable.
Plus, the HoloLens’ mobile and collaborative capabilities provide the project team with a new level of freedom. This untethered and self-computing machine allows them to visualize georeferenced models anywhere on the jobsite without being hindered by lengthy wires or spotty Wi-Fi. Furthermore, MR offers users a more social and realistic digital experience. Multiple users wearing HoloLens headsets have the ability to visualize the same digital 3D space, interact with the same holographs and discuss project mockups in a way that users wearing closed-vison VR goggles cannot.
However, these benefits are only the beginning for this transformative technology. While no one’s completely sure of what’s next for MR, one upcoming possibility is integrating hand-held laser scanners that can piece together and tie in small areas of renovations directly into the models and the 3D space. For now, LF Driscoll and the Structure Tone organization are focusing on getting our clients involved with altered reality. We’re looking forward to implementing holographic, tabletop projection models into our presentations to provide clients with a comprehensive representation of our plan to help them build their dream space while ensuring these technologies can be used safely in the field.