We have been an early adopter of 3d BIM technology, having used Revit since around 2002 so we can provide virtual designs to our clients and they can realistically see their building before it is built. The next stage of technology is about to begin with augmented reality (AR).
AR refers to the process of laying computer-generated graphics onto real-world images in realtime. There are two types of AR:
With GPS and location-based technologies, technology originally developed for video and mobile games is combined with positioning software to create new areas of application for construction planning and design.
Vision-based AR uses a device’s camera as a lens through which you can experience an augmented world. To achieve this, a device must process each video frame coming off the camera sensor, compare it with data stored locally or in the cloud, find an object that matches the one in the frame, calculate the device’s relative position to that object, and then draw graphics that appear on top of it.
Hi-tech headsets, while some time away, will eventually come to construction sites and other industrial environments, providing capabilities which we could only dream about a few years ago.
Companies like Google and Vuzix are engaged in the development of head-worn portable computers, which we believe will be the next generation of hi-tech devices to follow the smart phone and tablet computers. It is expected both companies will be releasing their products sometime in 2013.
In architecture is where the greatest impacts will be made – by enabling designs to be uploaded to the glasses and then allowing someone wearing the glasses to view a BIM design or other images superimposed over the real world view of a site. As the wearer walks around the site the view in the glasses will adapt to its surroundings. Once a project is under construction as architects we will be able to visually check designs against what is built.
Other potential uses in the construction industry include property maintenance and services and design of HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) systems. The technology will be able to “see-through” walls and floors for locating plumbing and ventilation systems. This allows teams to observe any changes by comparing the on-site location with information that has already been recorded.
Similarly a builder will be able to do the same providing faster and more efficient construction times. And the less time architects need to spend on site observing construction of projects, the greater time available to design better buildings. And that is in everyone’s interests.