Top 3 ways mixed reality is shaping the construction industry

Tony Faccenda

The architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry has historically been slow to change. For instance, productivity in construction has only grown one percent annually over the past two decades. Rework caused by these fractured workflows and inefficiency costs the construction industry $450 billion a year. According to a McKinsey & Company report, 20% of construction projects run over schedule and 80% are over budget. Under the pandemic conditions, these difficulties are exacerbated.

The AEC industry is turning to technology like mixed reality (MR), which combines augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), to become more efficient on the construction site, collaborate in real-time, and improve communication across all stages of the project lifecycle. Worldwide spending on augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) is expected to accelerate out of the pandemic and grow from just over $12.0 billion in 2020 to $72.8 billion in 2024, according to IDC.

We talked to our customers to figure out the top three ways MR is shaping the construction industry and improving productivity.

Unlocking the value of existing AEC digital assets

The design process of the AEC industry has evolved from traditional hand sketching to 3D generative modeling during the past decades. Although our design drawing has been massively digitized, it is hard to believe how limited it is in the contemporary workflow. The statistics show that, in recent years, digital models, including building information modeling (BIM), are used merely in the planning and design phases and rarely transferred to the construction and operation stages that account for a larger proportion in a building lifecycle.

In 2021, with increasing 5G deployment and extended reality (XR) performance, it becomes possible to bring the sophisticated 3D model outside of the office by empowering mobile devices with cloud access. In conjunction with AR, we can bring the 3D model “alive” in real coordinates to improve the efficiency and accuracy for many on-site tasks relying on traditional paper-based workflows such as quality assurance/quality control (QA/QC), public engagement, and facility maintenance.

The combination of two technologies can extend the usability of existing AEC digital assets and makes high-quality modeling a more cost-effective option. With proper UX design, this could also achieve an effective remote working model between the office and onsite groups. We should acknowledge that XR has the potential to lead the dominant narrative for the next generation of the human interface under the ongoing global trend of the remote working model.

– Yuan-Po Li, Immersive Lab Lead, AECOM

Engaging early critical thinking

3D visuals for construction have opened the door for more in-depth conversations on design and construction approaches for quite a while. Now, XR systems are reaching a point where they can be deployed at scale. This will place the model’s power in many hands across a construction project lifecycle, from design to construction and beyond.

Tablet-based AR makes it familiar and deployable to large teams while remaining affordable. Customizing our app functionality and experience, we can tailor the use and provide the greatest engagement and impact.

Utilizing XR for construction allows our teams and partners to collaborate, review and engage in critical conversations earlier and often. Ultimately, it’s about shifting these discussions to a timeline that allows for changes and corrections to be found, analyzed, and resolved before an issue negatively impacts the project’s success.

– Matt Zwetzig, VDC Manager, Swinerton

Visualizing design intent at scale

The headline above is a claim that has been made many times over the years. We truly believe that it will be different in 2021 because 2020 was a serious financial shock for the industry. Therefore, the barebones business issue of cutting costs will be the unsexy trend and drive AR adoption in 2021.

One major area the construction sector will focus on is rework, which, according to an FMI report and the Get it Right Initiative, makes up to 20% of all construction-related costs. Most of it is attributable to poor project communication.

Across the board, AR, by visualizing design intent at 1:1 scale throughout the project lifecycle, provides shared and clear understanding among all stakeholders.

Specifically, AR pushes the identification of issues upstream, i.e., during the design phase, thereby reducing the cost-prohibitive rework that currently happens in the later phases of a project.

– Matthias Krampe, Managing Director, Auggd


Want to learn more? See how construction professionals visualize designs and collaborate in real-time by overlaying BIM/CAD models onto job sites.

Speak with an expert to see how Unity can accelerate the digital transformation of your construction projects.

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