Compared to virtual reality (VR), adoption of AR headsets and solutions in the AEC industry seems to be moving at a glacial pace – after all, the Second Renaissance of VR began with the advent of the Oculus Rift Development Kit 1 in 2012. And since then, companies like Autodesk and Dassault have created VR-ready solutions and integrated VR into their design and BIM workflows and processes.
VR solutions like Kalloc's Fuzor integrate with Revit, ArchiCAD, and Rhino.
And while VR has allowed people to see and collaborate on models and construction site layouts in real-time, it is still rather limiting from a communication and collaboration standpoint. A lot of our customers and partners have indicated that they want to see their teammates and clients when they're explaining and marking up models with them, which is where AR surpasses VR as a more intuitive and immersive way of interacting with people and computers.
While AR headsets and smartglasses do allow people to see one another and work on things together in real-time, many of them have lacked the photorealistic graphics and immersion needed to truly explore a BIM model. Along with the high costs of the technology, and lack of useful software applications, it's easy to see why adopting AR solutions for the AEC industry has been difficult – until now.
Achieving Cost-Efficiency with AR
While the latest generation of high power, highly immersive AR headsets like the Meta 2 Development Kit and Microsoft HoloLens have been out for less than two years, companies like Kalloc Studios and Gensler have been leveraging AR's capabilities to empower designers, architects, and engineers with next-gen tools. One of those tools is Fuzor, a real-time rendering application that streamlines the review process and improves collaboration.
Fuzor's real-time viewing and modeling as seen through the Meta 2 Development Kit.
Not only are cost-savings achieved (by catching errors early on), but the amount of time saved (fewer back-and-forths, revisions, and mark-ups are needed) is invaluable. And the best part of applications built for AR are that they act as bridge technology, taking existing tools and solutions integral to our work (e.g., Revit, Rhino, and ArchiCAD) and improving upon their inherent limitations (i.e., our brains struggle mightily to visualize and understand CAD and BIM models on a flat 2D surface such as screens and paper).
AR is More Ubiquitous than Ever. Why Wait to Try It?
With the advent of Google's ARCore for Android and Apple's ARKit for iOS, quality AR has become widely available. Smartphones and tablets now have the computing and graphics power needed to see decent 3D overlays, while their more powerful desktop and laptop brethren only get more advanced every year, making AR experiences more immersive and photorealistic. And especially in the AEC industry, AR applications have evolved beyond novelty and are used in the field.
Mobile AR apps like SiteSpace Pro allow contractors to create 3D renderings of customers' homes to scale, and overlay them on the construction site – all before construction even begins. For customers, they can see exactly how their house will look like when it's completed. And for contractors, they're able to communicate and share information more clearly, reducing last-minute changes and eliminating surprises.
SiteSpace Pro ARCore 3D home construction rendering app.
Headset / Head-Mounted Display AR
Headset AR's higher costs shouldn't come as a surprise to most in the AEC industry, especially since high powered headsets deliver the resolution and quality renderings that the industry needs. Tethered headsets go hand-in-glove with enterprise workstations, and are a natural extension for the work needed in AEC. Case in point: BIM managers and architects have been using Fuzor through AR and VR headsets to rapidly prototype and show basic shapes and connected systems to clients. Fuzor in VR and AR has also been used to show construction site managers and other stakeholders where potential issues on the site could arise, and where new issues have already cropped up, allowing everyone involved to quickly course-correct and plan next steps.
A designer uses Fuzor in HTC Vive to mark up and indicate where a pipe should be placed.
From Novelty to Practical Use
With companies like Google, Microsoft, and Apple seeing AR and VR as the next computing platforms, now is as good of a time as any to start exploring AR solutions, whether they be on phones and tablets or through headsets like the Meta 2. The best part of getting ahead of the proverbial curve is that you won't be the only one testing out AR and VR and enjoying its benefits: many others are already field-testing and integrating AR and VR, and are sharing the benefits and learnings they've gained through case studies and partnerships.