Mixed Reality technology and devices like the Microsoft HoloLens are transforming the construction and manufacturing industries.
To deliver projects on time, within budget, and with better communication between teams and partners. This greater efficiency in terms of time, money and resources is the very real promise which Mixed Reality is bringing to many industries. It’s not surprising, therefore, that we’re seeing increasing momentum in developing and applying these immersive technologies to sectors like manufacturing and construction.Greater efficiency is the promise of Mixed Reality for industries like Construction Click To Tweet
The Soluis Group group recently secured a £1 Million Innovate UK grant to develop an Augmented Worker System (AWE) which pioneers the use of Mixed Reality for the construction industry. It will enable the intelligent design, construction, maintenance and whole-life value of buildings, supporting construction and infrastructure growth.Soluis is developing an Augmented Worker System (AWE) Click To Tweet
Soluis will work with partner organisations including systems consultancy Pinnacle Business Solutions, Carbon Dynamic – an innovative modular timber building construction company- and two High Value Manufacturing Catapult centres – the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) and the University of Strathclyde’s Advanced Forming Research Centre (AFRC) which is an internationally recognized centre of R&D for manufacturing technologies and metal forming and forging research.
AWE pioneers the use of Mixed Reality for the construction industry Click To Tweet
“The integration of cutting-edge technologies into a data rich platform such as AWE will help push UK productivity forwards by enabling better communication and more effective decision making,” says Christopher Freeman, Augmented Reality Technical Fellow at AMRC, who sees these activities as central to the digitalisation of construction and infrastructure.
AWE will support construction and infrastructure growth Click To Tweet
The consortium will be supported by key industry organisations that will comprise a steering group. These include AECOM, Doosan Babcock, Laing O’Rourke, Autodesk and Microsoft. With the construction sector being a key sector to the UK economy and one with a considerable growth opportunity, the government has been investing through its Digital Built Britain (DBB) programme
“Research and innovation are at the heart of the Government’s vision for a modern Industrial Strategy. The adoption of cutting-edge virtual and augmented reality technology in industries like construction will be vital in helping us identify new, smarter ways of working,” says Business Secretary Greg Clark.
To help industry meet the DBB Building Information Modelling (BIM) level mandated by the UK Government, the AWE system will provide augmented and virtual reality tools to improve the construction process at every stage.
The aim is that the implementation of DBB and the Augmented Worker system will realise a 25% reduction in cost, 25% reduction in waste, and increased productivity of 30% for projects. This means the industry will be able to deliver higher quality and faster builds, as well as creating more sustainable buildings.Mixed Reality will help industry deliver higher quality and faster builds Click To Tweet
“Construction technology is reshaping how we deliver and maintain our built assets, it is increasingly helping us place digital information into the real world in the right context supporting and augmenting the decision-making process,” says David Philp, BIM Director at AECOM.
Martin McDonnell, Chairman of Soluis Group, explained that the proof of concept project they previously conducted with Crossrail showed how this technology could be applied to add incredible value to the industry: “The Crossrail project enabled workers on-site to be interacting with digital data, hands-free and heads-up, reducing the need for paper or mobile based handheld devices. Yet our vision was to develop this concept much further and create a set of tools that would form the augmented worker of the future,” he says.
The AWE system will be designed to drive greater certainty, safety, efficiency and sustainability through five key areas – co-design, digital job guidance, progress monitoring, safety guidance and asset management.
A project’s timeline can be accelerated and therefore costs reduced by having the client and designer create and visualise potential layouts quickly for large-scale developments. The advantage of a VR/AR/MR environment is that designers and architects can preview a product or project with the client or customer while it is still in its proof-of-concept or prototyping phase, and they can do so within the relevant context. A designer and client can therefore immerse themselves in a project and collaboratively manipulate digital objects to suit the needs of the environment and inspect alternative specifications. On-site collaboration can then be captured and rendered into 3D models which can be used to get accurate feedback from stakeholders.
Digital job guidance
Regardless of their locations, this funtionality supports users to effectively communicate and complete complex tasks in the field. Workers can remotely connect with team members to share their expertise directly on a mobile device or headset. Augmenting and animating key step by step workflows using text, 3D models, images and videos together with other corporate assets, such as product information, can all be used as collaborative solutions and help the workers understand processes quickly. Downtime is reduced due to improved communication flow and with access to a global knowledge base that enables operatives to communicate with remote experts, provide instructions, and take information directly from databases.
This will assist the user to receive live on-site information, updates on delays, do inventory checks, and automate reorders which can be efficiently communicated to other users either in the field or back in the office. The risk of delays and errors are reduced due to rapid and efficient task completion, which is made possible because of the enhanced ability to track task times, check inventory and incentivise workers.
On-site Visualisation and Planning
Increased safety and better prioritisation with reduced risk of errors can be achieved through AR, by accessing more detailed building information and on-site guides to ‘Safety Zones’ for machinery.
AR-assisted on site planning will enable field workers to connect with the environment at a much more detailed level. Operatives will have the ability to see real-time data on virtual gauges from IoT connected products on site. Pre-set ‘no go’ zones can be seen to provide safer working environments and thermal cameras, built into the headset, will give operatives the ability to visualise, record and analyse temperature data.
Users can view assets and associated data for better building management and maintenance. This means reduced downtime, increased safety and fewer errors due to better contextual information and increased efficiency.
Integrating advanced visualization and real-time data is empowering Click To Tweet
The integration of these advanced visualization technologies with detailed real-time data is incredibly empowering to workers, who, by placing on a headset can instantly access timely and accurate information related to maintenance targets based on the BIM representation of a building. When combined with facilities management systems and other data sources, this will allow users to visualise objects they wouldn’t normally see, effectively giving them something akin to x-ray vision superpowers.
Real time access to individualised data, analytics and instructions during the construction and operational stages will greatly improve productivity, quality and also help worker well-being,” concludes Philp.
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Alice Bonasio is a VR Consultant and Tech Trends’ Editor in Chief. She also regularly writes for Fast Company, Ars Technica, Quartz, Wired and others. Connect with her on LinkedIn and follow @alicebonasio and @techtrends_tech on Twitter.
Also published on Medium.