Difference between AR & VR
Before beginning this process, we knew very little about augmented reality and virtual reality. We were aware of its use in the construction industry however, we wanted to understand in what capacity and how useful it was.
The construction industry has seen very little digitization over the past decade, especially when compared against the digitization rates of quick-to-adapt industries like media and finance. One way this can be demonstrated is looking at the percent of revenues companies put back into research and development. Construction invests a disappointing amount of 2% of annual revenue on R&D whereas the larger contributors such as the Telecom industry put forth 8%. In short, digitization is much needed in construction and technologies like augmented reality and virtual reality are at the forefront of making that happen.
AR & VR operate through a repetitive cycle. The first step is to gather as much information about the existing site as possible, for virtual reality that is often the surrounding environment and for augmented reality it is often the interior environment. Next, all the information is imported into the BIM model to create a 3D model of the site that is distributed to the team. Once that is done, the team uses the file to visualize and catch mistakes, and then goes back and corrects the BIM model. This process is repeated many times, however, two constants throughout the process are the importance of using elaborate hardware and the need for different inputs from different people.
The benefits of augmented reality and virtual reality are seemingly endless but they can be broken down into three main categories: cost benefits, coordination benefits, and productivity benefits. AR & VR help reduce cost by helping projects finish ahead of schedule and reducing the number of site trips needed. Enhanced coordination through AR & VR helps eliminate rework and facilitates effective communication among project stakeholders. AR & VR provide a clear vision of the final product so all parties know what they are working towards.
We studied what these specific benefits look like in case studies. In the installation of HVAC to the Waterbury Bus Storage & Maintenance Facility, the use of Virtual Reality helped facilitate discussion of issues during meetings given that they already had all the necessary information, increase accuracy decisions with a decreased need for As-Built Drawings since all members had access to more detailed data, and finally, save time and money through a lower quantity of mistakes. That is not to say AR & VR are without it’s challenges. Implementation, lack of widespread knowledge, safety, and reliability all present issues to projects using AR & VR.
All construction projects come down to risk. Developers, designers, and contractors alike want to bring in the maximum amount of revenue while taking on as little risk as possible. Augmented reality and virtual reality help reduce the risk associated with projects in a multifaceted capacity. There is just as much risk associated with poor communication (which can lead to tension and arbitration), as there is with dealing with issues that can push projects over budget (missed mistakes, rework, etc.). The use AR & VR helps reduce the likelihood of any of those events happening.
What is more, we not only learned about the topic we studied, we also learned about how to best conduct a research project. Two of our main take-aways are to first read as much as possible about the topic while annotating as much of the information as possible. Second, one of the best ways of gathering information is through interviewing industry professionals.