When it comes to digitization, construction ranks just above agriculture, which is at the bottom of the list of industries that have digitized. Thus, there are plenty of opportunities for disruption in the construction industry. A knowledge gap contributes to that lack of technology adoption, including augmented reality (AR). There is still a misconception that AR is a gimmick. It’s still perceived largely as a gaming tool that looks cool.
However, there are real-world, industrial applications for AR today. And that will continue to increase over time, because AR makes sense to 3D beings already operating in a 3D environment. AR can help address the industry challenges of:
- ensuring project certainty risks like schedule and safety;
- addressing labor shortages;
- avoiding inconsistent quality.
To overcome misconceptions, more construction companies need to try out AR. The best way to do that is to create an environment where it can be tested with all the stakeholders involved. After a three- to six-month pilot, the company can determine the value of AR to its processes. This is a good way to handle implementation of all new technologies, not just AR.
When a company is busy, it’s challenging to adopt any new technology. Once you decide which scenarios it will be used for, it’s important to choose someone who will champion the implementation. Unless you spend time planning a technology implementation, it’s not likely to be as successful.
One of the most common goals of companies thinking about implementing AR is to better coordinate the work of trade partners. The usual procedure for MEP contractors is that the first one to install work on the jobsite gets to install their portion without a hitch. Then every contractor that follows has to work around that initial work, or a redesign needs to take place if there are clashes. But when AR is used before any work is installed, the AR eliminates rework by superimposing a digital project model overlay on the real world site. The 3D model hologram enables everyone to see the components in context on the site. Once the installations can be visualized, it’s easier to see the potential conflicts and clashes to avoid.
There is great potential for AR in the next decade. To realize that, companies need to be able to load large models and position them with accuracy – construction tolerances usually range from one-quarter to one-eighth inch – when they are superimposed on the physical site. To encourage wider use, AR needs to be less expensive and more available to all companies. Companies can benefit even more from AR when they can bring in the “intelligence” aspect. A contractor will be able to view the holograms before working in the field. After work, that contractor can upload the work that has been done for the day so everyone can see the progress.
Scale is a big factor in widespread adoption of AR. As more people adopt it, it will become less expensive. At some point, benefit will outweigh cost. Statistics have shown that 30% of construction activities involve rework. AR can drive that figure down so things are built right the first time. That’s a benefit that’s worth the investment.
Tune in to Bridging the Gap Podcast episode 199 with Waleed Zafar to hear more about using AR in construction.