Bridgit: Three Ways Augmented Reality Will Improve Construction Quality

by LAUREN HASEGAWA, Bridgit

Originally published in Construction Executive on June 12, 2015

Augmented reality (AR) allows users to see a superimposed digital image on top of their view of the real world.

This digital image can be delivered in a variety of ways, such as through secondary screens like iPads or smart glass, or wearable devices like Google Glass. Essentially, it’s like being able to draw on or markup the real world, just as one would scribble notes on a printed document or add comments to a digital document.

By its very nature, augmented reality is a means of delivering additional information to the user. The types of information displayed via AR are virtually unlimited and can include things like feedback on environmental surroundings such as GPS data or information from external sources such as construction material specifications. However, in the most powerful construction cases, AR marries these two types of information and presents location-specific information based on external sources. For example, a BIM model being displayed on top of the user’s field of view that matches his or her current location within a building.

Because of the more detailed information that a user is able to access with the help of augmented reality, this new technology creates several promising opportunities for increased overall construction quality.

REMOVE THE GUESSWORK

Frequently, quality issues or deviations from the plan occur in construction because of a lack of current and readily accessible information. In these instances, the people performing the work will often apply a “best guess” type of thinking, where they assume the information they are working with is the most up to date.

If information about things like change orders could be delivered to users the moment they enter a location with changes, then the instances of incorrect work as a result of old plans would be greatly reduced. This kind of information could be delivered using new technology such as the DAQRI Smart Helmet.

INCREASE ACCURACY

With the help of augmented reality, exact measurements and location specifications can be superimposed onto the user’s field of view. This information would be delivered based on the user’s current location, as well as information from the plan. With this “smart” field of view creating a grid or area showing where the work needs to be done, construction team members can work more accurately.

A clear application of this would be during the excavation phase of a project where digging was limited to a certain area. Using new technology, such as smart glass being implemented into the windshields of construction equipment, the operator wouldn’t need to reference any outside documents to understand the limits of the excavation.

Watch this video for an example of this kind of windshield for a standard car. Researchers at Virginia Tech are currently working on construction equipment-specific applications of this smart windshield technology.

IDENTIFY ISSUES FASTER

Another application for augmented reality in construction relates to identifying when completed work deviates from the current plan. In this instance, a team member equipped with AR technology would be able to walk through a site and be alerted each time the area does not match the model. They would then be able to record the issues noted in real time and communicate them with the responsible stakeholders.

Researchers at the University of Illinois are currently testing this kind of technology. At the moment, the research is being done using primarily drones to track construction progress and deviations on the building’s exterior; however, the technology could be deployed in a similar manner to track internal deficiencies.

As the industry continues to look for new ways to improve overall construction quality and efficiency, augmented reality research provides an exciting glimpse into the solutions on the horizon. These new technologies will be able to work as smart overlays to the existing communication solutions that construction companies are currently rolling out, such as a cloud-based document management for improved real-time communication and mobile solutions for punch lists and subcontractor management.


Lauren Hasegawa is a Structural Engineering graduate with a background in concrete restoration and is the Co-Founder of Bridgit. As a young engineer, Lauren has always had an interest in how new technologies can improve efficiency and productivity on construction projects. With this passion, she founded Bridgit in 2012. Bridgit focuses on developing mobile-first solutions that can help relieve on-site pain points, such as punch list management. Lauren is an active mentor to young women in engineering and a frequent speaker at local and national industry events focused on construction innovation.