Can AR (augmented reality) become one of the next great collaboration tools in construction? Movement is happening on two fronts that suggest the construction industry is indeed examining how virtual data can help envision the future using 3D.

In a new report, Fiatech, www.fiatech.org, Austin, Texas, in collaboration with COMIT (Construction Opportunities in Mobile IT), demonstrates the application of AR and how it can facilitate current industry processes and exchanges of information.

As Fiatech describes, AR is a live direct or indirect view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented by virtual, computer-generated imagery. In addition, the organization defines VRM (virtual reality modeling) as an alternative perspective to designs through an interactive mock-up of 3D models, and notes its use on some current capital projects. It is the belief of Fiatech and COMIT that AR could potentially add to such alternative perspectives.

The project also includes Fiatech and COMIT members such as Bechtel, www.bechtel.com, San Francisco, Calif., Bentley Systems, www.bentley.com, Exton, Pa., and Network Rail, www.networkrail.co.uk, London, U.K., among others. This team will help examine the business value and viability of AR technology in construction.

Some of the technologies involved with AR, including live streaming video feeds and object identification using GPS, could definitely add value to the process. Such technologies could indeed help site personnel better interpret information. Add in the use of 3D models and handheld devices and the prospect of bettering understanding advanced modeling data can add tremendous value.

DPR Construction, www.dpr.com, Redwood City, Calif., is one construction company that already seems to be kicking the tire on the ways in which digital imagery and visualization can enhance the construction process.

The company recently partnered with WorldViz, www.worldviz.com, Santa Barbara, Calif., to introduce a virtual reality showroom at its headquarters, designed to present advanced 3D immersive visualization. This information can be presented to its customers and partners for purposes of making realtime decisions during a virtual walk through of a project.

Visitors are given a head-mounted display that uses motion-tracking systems, which present a holistic view of a project. They then proceed to walk this showroom which shows a full-scale digital model. The technology helps them better understand layout and design features pre-construction, and allows them the freedom to make changes in the early stages of design.

“Giving our customers a way to have the most realistic experience they can get outside of walking through a finished building enables valuable feedback and ensures that the end users are getting exactly what they want,” says Atul Khanzode, director of construction technology, DPR Construction. “DPR has invested heavily in integrated building information modeling and virtual design and construction processes to help deliver more predictable outcomes for our customers. The partnership with WorldViz and the new virtual showroom offers teams and our customers a great way to visualize and contextualize projects, and address issues much sooner through rapid virtual prototyping.”