Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) open industry experts have been in in-depth discussions about the new opportunity that will enhance worker safety and efficiency that current technologies cannot offer. The benefits of using VR and AR in construction extends to training, planning and marketing.
People often interchange AR with VR, and that often leads to confusion. AR deals with the integration of real-life objects with a computer-generated image. Meanwhile, VR is a way to simulate an entire environment or scenario. VR is often used in the construction to show clients a visual of what a proposed project will look like once it is completed.
AR is a great tool to use when interacting with complex information. With the aid of AR, overlaying information can be added to real objects for the end-user. Also, we can anticipate the arrival of technologies that will integrate sensory information like sound, mixed and assisted reality.
The Head Mounted Display (HMD) technology is replacing old technology like the Fixed Display thanks to recent advancements in VR technology. According to Global Market Insight research, the operator market will be valued at more than €17.79 billion in 2025 due to VR technology adaptation.
THE ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES OF VR IN THE CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY.
One of the advantages of VR technology is its ability to refine the education, planning, safety, and efficiency of workers on the construction site. VR can simulate a construction site module, giving a worker first-hand experience of the job before they even start. According to the General Manager for Trimble Civil Engineering and Construction, Scott Crozier. VR is used to share building information Models (BIM) and designs with clients in a way that they can understand.
VR also opens an opportunity for remote operation such as the unmanned driving exhibition for excavators. A demonstration that the Sany showcased in November, at Bauma China. Likewise, it will make it possible for several operators to carry out jobs like digging or controlling a machine from a safe and comfortable place regardless of distance and weather conditions.
While performing the jobs, key metrics and data like work efficiency, machine performance, site condition etc. can be tracked at the monitoring centre via a screen. Think long-term; it might be possible to perform long-distance wireless transmission and 3D imaging using VR technology.
CEO of Wacker Neuson Group, Martin Lehner
Wacker Neuson utilises VR in their product development and plans to roll out a new feature that would allow the customer to view various products in VR. Using their upcoming variant configuration, customers will also be able to customize the machines that they want to purchase.
Furthermore, it will allow customers to perform product tests and provide engineers with instant feedback during early-stage development. In so doing, progress will be faster, agile and more efficient.
Alternatively, the technology can be used to train operators using simulators. Product Line Manager for CM Labs Simulations Drew Carruthers heads the company’s Vortex Construction equipment simulator. The equipment can simulate backhoes, tower or mobile cranes, wheeled loaders and excavator that would aid effective training while reducing cost and increasing productivity.
Drew also believes that the next phase for safety, inspections, communication and operation in the construction industry will be mixed-reality. The technology blends virtual and real environment. As the cost of implementing VR goes down, there will be more opportunities to explore in the world of construction.
TRAINING TECHNOLOGY FOR CONTRACTORS
Equipment simulators can reduce cost as shown by Conewago Enterprises, a US-located design-build general contractor partnering with CM Lab to use their Vortex construction equipment.
CM Labs is a Canadian Company that is extending its reach in Europe by collaborating with Antycip Simulation (A provider of Professional-grade Simulation Software).
The partnership between the two companies means that CM Labs now controls Antycip offices in the UK, Italy, and France. Utilising their outlet in Europe, CM Labs can provide solutions that include support, training and set-up to its client across Europe.
Ritual is another company that is making use of simulations to reduce accidents at height and promote safety practices in the construction industry. In addition to the company’s service of simulation rentals, it also offers boom and scissor lift operators training under various high – risk scenarios.
It is a brave new world where operators can gain the skill for a piece of equipment before they get the chance to interact with the equipment physically.
With virtual reality, training is much safer, and there is little to no risk of damage to infrastructure and equipment. Such low-risk venture is possible because VR offers a controlled environment to train operators.
A typical setup will have VR goggles, a working basket that operators can stand in, switches that mimic real machines and a control panel.
The Microsoft HoloLens 1
According to the company, there is an opportunity for operators who have been out of the field for a while to retrain themselves using the simulators. The COO of Riwal, Pedro Torres commented that the company would continue to explore innovative solutions that will enable them to make working at heights safer. Also, he believes that customers can get a lower cost for renting and operating machines as a result of VR Simulation.
Avontus Software, a UK company, recently launched its VR app (Scaffold VR), that work with Scaffold Designer Software. The app allows users to interact with Scaffold Designs, view and share the designs in a 3D environment. Both customers and co-workers can use the app to preview drawing on their smartphones. In addition to the immersive experience that users get, customer can see what designers are offering or use the app to direct scaffolds on potential builds.
Another benefit of using Scaffold Designer is the fact that users can print 2D and 3D engineering models. While the app comes in both the free and paid version, the free one allows users to view drawing on their device. However, to do a virtual walkthrough and inspect models in 3D, then users will require the Scaffold VR Cardboard Viewer. During the walk-through, they can check for errors and correct them to avoid unnecessary delays and overruns.
Works plans can be created using the Scaffold VR. With the help of the app, users can ensure a safe working environment by identifying a potential hazard, getting the crew familiar with the site and implement safety procedures. All the adjustments are made virtually making the process seamless and cost-effective. Likewise, on the physical job site, crew members can revisit drawing plans in both 2D and 3D using their smartphone and a VR viewer.
According to Julian Priebe, the head of construction at Liebherr. The VR experience that allows for position tracking and visual display requires expensive hardware equipment. Therefore, to reach a wider audience, the VR application needs to be mobile and easy to use.
THE AUGMENTED REALITY ON SITE
Trimble can use its Vision AR App to connect Field and Office Operatives
Since the launch of AR on smartphones, glasses and smart helmets seem to be the main focus of its application. While many believe that the construction industry is still years away from implementing AR. There is no doubt that it will play a critical role in both construction and design in the future.
Some of the ways AR is currently being used in the industry include; helping engineers and mechanics with complex modelling design, monitoring events in real-time using a smartphone, and displaying product options to customers in different scenarios.
When it comes to construction projects, companies are always looking to reduce errors, cut cost and minimise the change in orders. Trimble, for example, uses the SiteVision AR application. The application connects both field and office operative to same construction plans. Therefore, changes can be made in real-time, error identified, designs can be loaded to scale, and most importantly, everyone is updated at the same time.
Trimble XR10 Brings Holographic Support to Workers
Trimble was able to showcase the power of the Microsoft HoloLens using prefabricated rebar. With the help of this technology, two people can collaborate on a prefabricated rebar project. They can view design models, and with the technology scanning the environment regularly, they can make immediate corrections to any design flaw they detect in real-time.
The next phase of technology is the Trimble XR10 integrating with the HoloLens 2. Workers on a construction site will be able to view holographic site plans using the technology as it will be projected from their hard hats. The tech opens up more opportunities for workers to explore 3D models in real-time. Trimble believes that the adoption of mixed-reality technology will improve quality of work, efficiency and productivity at worksites.
Also, Trimble’s cloud-based platform, Trimble Connect, promises to transform the way field operators access constructible 3D models for their various job when assembling or inspecting.
Microsoft’s HoloLens is a Mixed-Reality Platform for Use in Various Applications
In the future, there is a high possibility that remote maintenance of machines will be a reality using AR technology. For example, a locally-based expert can direct a field operator on steps to take to run some maintenance operations on a machine using a video link set up by camera wore by the field operator.
The growing rate of development in the VR and AR space is leading to company partnerships in the construction industry. For instance, Liebherr Tower Cranes is in partnership with RWTH Aachen, a Center for Construction Robotic to offer digitalization solution in the pre-production phase. They will cater to everything, including the semi-automated construction site and the value chain.
Liebherr Using Its Crane Planner to Wow Customers.
Liebherr is a major player in the German construction industry. The company is currently using VR and AR technology in its communication, marketing, crawler crane and its tower divisions. The Crane Planner 2.0 is an application that allows for the construction of 3D planes for duty cycle cranes and crawler cranes during hoisting operation. The sales team uses the application during an exhibition at trade shows as well as to show customers new products.
According to Priebe, users can simulate several actions like visiting a construction site or using a virtual planning table and simulate a lift or movement of the machine. With this technology, people can easily understand the geometry of three-dimensional objects.
Construction Software Sales Specialist Duncan McCormick believes that augmented reality is more exciting for the construction industry as it creates more features for the end-user. The reason being that AR mixes the real world with the virtual unlike VR that create an entire environment.
Topcon’s Augmented Reality Software
It is common to have several independent stakeholders working together on a massive infrastructural project. Since most are working in isolation, there is bound to be a difference of opinion on designs and plans that can result in time-wasting. Topcon’s MAGNET Live is a possible solution to the problem. The web-based platform allows users to review and edit objects in a 3D virtual model. In so doing, stakeholders can come to a consensus on a single model. In addition, the project owners will be able to manage and resolve any project crisis in a timely fashion before translating them to the real world.
Director of Product Management at TopCon, Alok Srivastava, stated that the company would continue to pursue innovative solutions that will enhance productivity using AR and VR. Likewise, there are opportunities to use object recognition to automate measurement, calibration of field equipment. In future, the company believes that both Integrated Project Delivery (IPD), and Computer-Assisted Virtual Environment (CAVE) will be the new normal.
Cave technology is unique as it allows a person project an immersive virtual reality environment onto surfaces. In so doing, designers can engage their audience with their 3D construction designs in a 1:1 scale.
THE FUTURE OF VR AND AR
Topcon Plans to Use AR for Street View Overlay
While there exist several applicable opportunities for VR and AR in the construction industry, there are still more areas to explore. One of such areas is the opportunity to integrate VR with BIM for design visualisation in the field. The sector is still in its early stages and there are hopes that there will be massive improvements as ease of use and adoption continues to grow.
Some people believe that AR will outgrow VR due to the lower entry cost that AR technology demands. Areas like machine control offerings and field survey are likely areas to be dominated by mixed reality technology.
The benefits of both VR and AR are not in doubt as they prove that technology will enhance efficiency and productivity. Both technologies will be more relevant in identifying errors in the development and planning stage of various construction projects.
Construction companies are now taking VR and AR technology seriously, following the global trend of other major companies investing heavily in the sector. Therefore, we can expect to see great things in the sector in the nearest future.
Exciting time lie ahead!