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Is Augmented Reality the New Tool in a Contractor’s Arsenal?

Is Augmented Reality the New Tool in a Contractor’s Arsenal?

For contractors and clients alike, running behind schedule or going over budget is frustrating. And some factors—like weather, permitting or zoning issues—will always be out of your control. It can be nearly impossible to ensure that every measurement, calculation, and supply order is 100% perfect and completely meets your client’s expectations. So, is there a better way to minimize risks and place the odds in your favor?

A recent study by KPMG demonstrated that engineering has become more sophisticated, with taller buildings, and more eco-friendly and disaster-resilient design. Still, the construction industry as a whole has been slow to take advantage of new technologies like augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR) that could greatly improve the sales and design process. These technologies take clients beyond paper sketches and digital models to truly immerse them in the project. From a customer relations standpoint, utilizing these technologies could make for faster approvals and increased customer satisfaction. It would demystify the entire process, allowing clients to have a much clearer understanding of what they’re asking for (and going to to get) before construction even begins.

Besides increasing customer satisfaction, adding AR and VR technology to your toolkit has the potential to save your business a lot of money. According to a report in MIT Technology Review, AR technology can help builders visualize construction projects better than traditional blueprints or even digital models viewed on tablets—all while avoiding costly mistakes. The article explains how a Senior Construction Manager for Gilbane used a new AR tool by Microsoft, called the HoloLens to better examine the progress on his project.

Gilbane John Myers HoloLens

Gilbane’s John Myers uses HoloLens to review a virtual 3-D model of Boston’s Dearborn STEM Academy. Source: www.technologyreview.com

“When Myers recently put on HoloLens to look at a mockup of a project, he could see that steel frames the company planned to order to support the building’s walls were too long to fit the design. Having spotted the issue ahead of time, the company can now ask the supplier to cut the frames shorter in his shop rather than make workers adjust dozens of tracks that would hold the frames in place. Myers estimates that the move will save [the company] about $5,000 in labor costs.”

AR and VR technology also have the potential to make your employees safer and more efficient. Through AR and VR trainings, you could conduct low-risk, but seemingly “real-world” safety trainings. You could also provide your employees with the opportunities to try out new techniques or develop new skills with no risk of a mistake increasing the cost (in terms of damaged supplies or delayed timeline) to an existing project.

There are still some kinks to work out before AR and VR technologies are likely to see widespread adoption throughout the construction industry. There are safety issues involved for contractors walking around a hazardous jobsite with an obscured view (from a hard hat, etc). Additionally, similar to a 360 video tour of a listing on a real estate site, AR and VR can freeze and your peripheral view is limited. Additionally, the report from MIT also explains that current AR and VR lenses aren’t built to stand up to the rigors of a construction site, since they are not heat or shatter-resistant. For these reasons, most of the companies testing the technology are doing so in offices or on trailers near a job  site, but not where the actual construction is taking place.

While AR and VR technologies evolve to meet the needs of the industry, they remain a great sales tool and method for building a satisfied base of customers.

About the author: Danielle Hegedus is an Atlanta based writer. She is a regular contributor to the solar leads experts at Home Improvement Leads, as well as a variety of lifestyle and home design websites. Danielle recently finished her first cookbook, in collaboration with Chef, Kamal Grant for Atlanta’s beloved, Sublime Doughnuts.

What do you think about augmented reality in construction? Tell us in the comments below!

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