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Virtual Reality Design in Construction

The Daqri Smart Helmet is demonstrated during an event at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show.

Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg

Virtual and augmented reality is emerging as a game-changing technology for the construction industry, as it can enhance collaboration among all project stakeholders before building even begins. Currently, the most common way to view 3-D models is on the 2-D screen of a tablet or laptop. Designers and builders can get more value out of the model when they’re able to fully immerse themselves in it. Companies such as IrisVR specialize in converting 3-D plans into a virtual reality (VR) experience.

Michael Gonzalez, preconstruction director at McCarthy Building Companies, said that virtual reality and augmented reality technologies allow the construction team to detect errors ahead of time and avoid costly mistakes. Stacy Scopano, senior construction industry strategy manager at Autodesk, said the proliferation of 3-D modeling software and new VR products like the Daqri Smart Helmet and Microsoft HoloLens are leading to the tipping point for VR in construction.

VR and AR can aid in more than just design and collaboration, as companies are finding ways to use the technologies to improve job site safety as well. The tools can let managers and workers view job site conditions without subjecting them to safety hazards. For example, researchers at the Institute for Computation in Engineering at the Ruhr-Universität Bochum in Germany are training workers on VR versions of job sites. And in September, construction giant Bechtel joined forces with Human Condition Safety to offer VR immersion safety training.

According to this article in GeekWire, “Where the technology really has the potential to make a difference in the industry…is in planning complex medical and industrial projects.”

Other large marquee projects will also start using more VR design. In a recent Construction Dive article, Aaron White of structural engineering firm Walter P. Moore said of designing stadiums, “We’d like to start using VR modeling of de-shoring the tower headers before we send workers up 150-foot towers.” The VR environment would improve safety and efficiency, allowing workers to determine which tools they will actually need to complete a project.

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