VR and AR in the Engineering and Construction Sector

VR and AR in the Engineering and Construction Sector

Alexis van Schalkwyk
January 9, 2023
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VR and AR in the Engineering and Construction Sector

Virtual and Augmented Reality will soon become a common feature of our everyday lives, and whether you realise it or not, these ‘new’ technologies are fast becoming essential operational tools within businesses across the broad. Two industries of particular focus, both of which are rapidly developing as a result of these technologies, are the Engineering and Construction sectors.
In order to understand how these sectors are developing, while making use of innovative technological approaches, let’s start with understanding the technology:

What is VR and AR

VR stands for virtual reality, this is the use of computer technology to create a simulated environment achieved using a headset. The experience involves being immersed into a simulated world where one’s vision is replaced by a computer simulator, this can sometimes also include being immersed in elements of sound and touch. VR enhances the ordinary, flat 2D screen experience, and transforms it into an interactive 3D world.
Then you have AR, which stands for augmented reality. With AR a user can experience the real world around them with the added experience of computer generated simulation. Augmented Reality involves the integration of digital information with a user’s environment in real time; a good example of AR is the Pokemon Go phenomenon that created a huge hype in 2016.
Now lets understand the sectors and see how these technologies can be adopted to improve their processes and workflows.

VR and VR in the Construction Sector

The construction sector is notorious for incurring delays, over-extended budgets and experience constant work stoppages. This is at large due to the fact that plans are drawn up on a blueprint, leaving a lot of room for error.  With the use of a blueprint, by the time an error has been identified, the process is usually too far along into the development phase, meaning significant change would be required in order to rectify the noted errors. Introducing AR and VR into the sector gives architects and construction managers the ability to examine and experience a project in real life conditions before actually executing it. As you can imagine the benefits these technologies are significant, they allow companies to save a lot of time and money on fundamental flaws that they might miss or overlook from a blueprint. These new technologies help to provide accuracy and efficiency within the fundamentals of this sector.

Examples of AR and VR in Construction:

1. Off-site site tours:

Off-site site tours have been made possible through the implementation of VR applications that provide 360 degree virtual walks through construction sites. Workers are able to capture the footage as they walk through the sites, they then upload it to the cloud (a secure online platform), where managers are able to add any annotations or attachments needed. From there, the relevant teams are able to download this data and view it offline to experience and view the full scope of the site

2. Tracking real world progress against models:

New technologies have provided progress monitoring and visualisation tools that allow construction teams to capture data on either a daily or weekly basis. All this data is then collated to create a building information model or BMI that allows construction managers to compare the onsite work with the original designs and quickly identify whether there have been any deviations.

3. Instant floor plans:

Applications have evolved offering those in the construction field the ability to measure, draw and publish a full floor plan from images taken with any mobile device. The application then allows you to choose from an inhouse catalogue and place orders. People using this app range from a wide target market, including your everyday DIY fanatics, to realtors, airBnB hosts and even crime scene investigators.
Further reading: 6 Startups Futurising Construction with VR and AR.

VR and AR in the Engineering Sector

A problem that many engineers face is that they design and construct parts that are make up a much larger system. Many engineers don’t even get the opportunity to view the bigger complementary pieces that complete their parts and this then leaves room for error. Often when these parts arrive on site they don’t fit correctly or a small component has changed and this was not communicated correctly to the engineers meaning another cycle of rework is required.
Both VR and AR can make everyday maintenance and operations work more efficient in this case. First, downtime is extremely costly for industrial and manufacturing companies, so a quick response system to maintenance tasks is essential.

Examples of AR and VR in Engineering:

1. VR was first used in design engineering by the automotive and aerospace sectors to quickly generate product prototypes for a small cost. VR technology can be implemented all the way from the initial concept through to the build and implementation phases. They allow continuous reviewing at the completion of each stage in order to identify if there are any structural weaknesses, faults or design errors.
2. Manufacturers also use virtual reality for prototyping purposes during the design process. This removes the need to build a physical prototype and speeds up the development stage.
With the many advantages AR and VR have to offer, we can expect that the Construction and Engineering sectors will radically evolve as they continue to adopt these progressive technologies. Not only do they offer a clear-cut competitive advantage for businesses within these sectors, but they are also the lifeline of their future success.

As seen on FOX, Digital journal, NCN, Market Watch, Bezinga and more