The pros and cons of Augmented Reality within the Construction industry

The pros and cons of Augmented Reality within the Construction industry

Augmented Reality has bust into the forefront of our society in recent times, and it has the potential to revolutionize not only the construction industry, but our entire way of life.

However, at the moment, despite these recent developments, the technology has its limits, and these limits make it very difficult to incorporate augmented reality into construction sites.

With the onset of more affordable and less clunky AR goggles and glasses, such as the Oculus Rift or Google Glass, the possibilities seem endless. We could project information onto any surface, we could manipulate a 3D digital environment to suit our needs, and see exactly what would be required on any given construction site. This seems to be a way to save both time and money.

But upon inspection, there is on key problem. When involved in any construction project, our data must be 100% accurate all the time. One little issue, and a building can collapse, or a pipe can be ruptured, costing huge sums of money, and worse, putting the lives of the users at risk. If our AR displays look cool, and let us see all this data, but cannot be trusted by the user, then they are nothing more than a novelty, and a very expensive one at that.

Stéphane Côté provided an interesting response to this problem, using the example of a set of goggles that allowed workmen to see through the floor, to look at underground pipes. If the pipe showed up as green, the land had been surveyed recently, and the workmen could be certain that the position was accurate. If it was red, then its position wouldn’t be certain, and more surveying would be required.

Until we can be certain that the information being displayed is completely accurate, AR will struggle to be implemented in this industry.

Let us say that you are building a house. You take the wall and augment it with a door and some windows. This works brilliantly because the cameras on your AR goggles let you interact physically with a model of the wall. As nothing else is changing in real life, the cameras on your goggles create an image that remains completely accurate. But what about on a construction site, with the constant movement of people, heavy duty vehicles and materials. Currently, AR works better in static, unchanging situations, and when it has to show information that is constantly changing, it becomes less accurate.

Now, these problems are in the process of being solved, and developments are being made, especially in the gaming industry, where constantly changing, but accurate environments are being successfully simulated for the user.

Investment is AU headsets has been huge, and a lot of this money has gone into the design of the headsets, to make them as streamlined as possible. However, whenever you put on a set of AU goggles, you lose at least a little bit of your peripheral vision, and whilst every effort has been made with these new designs to minimise the amount of vision that you lose, a little bit of a blind spot in inevitable.

Now, in a design studio where you are creating a model, or in your living room playing a game, a little bit of blindness like this isn’t a problem. But on a construction site, that blind spot could be hiding a vehicle coming towards you, or a piece of material coming your way. The health and safety risk is enormous, and this is perhaps one of the most key hindrances when it comes to incorporating AR into our worksites. Until the risk to life in zero, you will be hard pressed to convince builders and engineers to wear these goggles.

If you’re considering incorporating any AR into your operation, at any level, it’s important to use an AR Development Company that understands these issues, and how to incorporate AR successfully.