Augmented Reality: Moving Past the “Cool Factor”

Jim BaldingTechnology

Image Credit: BAM trials Microsoft HoloLens

Augmented reality (AR) is exciting technology, no bones about it. But as Gilbane vice president Sue Klawans said in the August 2016 MIT Technology Review, “It’s not just new toy.” She was speaking about their pioneering use of the Microsoft HoloLens. What’s unique about HoloLens is its “inside-out” tracking. In September 2016, Ben Lang talked about the need for a self-contained inside-out tracking system (one that does not rely on external sensors) “that could provide tracking that’s fast and accurate enough to allow augmented objects to appear anchored in the real world such that they actually seem real.” Without this, augmented objects can swing around with your head as you move, and your brain cannot process them as part of the real world. HoloLens has stepped up to the plate with what Lang calls “jaw-droppingly good” inside-out tracking.

Why is this important? Because the realm of design/build, accuracy is everything. The HoloLens understands where it is in space, so if dimensions are off, you’ll be able to clearly see the problems. And you’ll be less like to create new problems.

Many construction companies already see promise in AR as a tool that will be able to save them quantifiable time and money. Are there still challenges to overcome? Absolutely. Wearing something like a HoloLens and walking around an active construction site safely is a pretty big issue that has yet to be resolved. Is AR a “cool tool?” You betcha. But as the technology matures, the real story is the value that will add to the bottom lines of AEC firms and their clients.

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