More contractors are realizing the benefits of bringing BIM to the jobsite. It allows them to validate designs in the field and detect errors during construction, fabrication or installation. This prevents costly rework, facilitates strong quality assurance, and streamlines office-to-field communication throughout the construction lifecycle.
VisualLive is a ready-to-use solution that allows contractors to bring their BIM data to the field using augmented reality (AR). While VisualLive enables you to push your models to your devices in a few simple clicks, you can make your transition to AR even easier by considering some basic steps ahead of time.
Here are the six essential tips you need to successfully get started with VisualLive.
1. Choose your AR device
Choosing the device you will use to view your models is the first decision you need to make. VisualLive can be used with two types of devices: a Microsoft Hololens headset (HoloLive) or a mobile device like a smartphone or tablet (MobiLive). VisualLive is supported on both iOS devices (iPhones, iPads) and Android tablets and phones. A headset device is recommended for workers who wish to remain hands-free and have a more immersive AR experience, while tablets and mobile devices are more suitable for sharing AR content with multiple people at the same time.
Bear in mind that some devices are equipped with light detection and ranging (LiDAR), a new capability that works in the same way as radar or sonar. LiDAR devices can map their surroundings with a high degree of accuracy. Microsoft Hololens and the latest generations of iOS devices (iPad 2021/2020 and iPhone Pro 12) use LiDAR. Devices enabled with LiDAR are better at keeping your model aligned, even as you move around, because they can detect floors, walls, pipes, and valves and can discern where you are in the space. Non-LiDAR devices can detect planes, like floors and walls, but cannot situate the user within the space. Understanding the varying capabilities of devices is crucial when deciding which device is right for you and your team.
2. Choose your placement method
“Placement” refers to how you anchor your virtual content to the real world. The placement method you use depends on the device you are using.
There are two possible workflows. When you click the VisualLive Revit or Navisworks plug-in, you will be prompted to choose between visual marker placement and two-point placement.
If you choose visual markers, a small rectangle will appear inside your Revit or Navisworks model. You can choose where you want to place the visual marker on your model. Ensure you choose a location you can physically access on your real site. For example, do not choose a spot on the ceiling or an inaccessible spot behind a pillar. It is best to choose a location that is not going to move, like a pillar or the corner of a window. Once you have positioned your virtual markers inside Revit or Navisworks and pushed your model to the cloud, you’ll be prompted to print out the markers, which consist of a QR code. These should be posted in the exact locations on your physical site as they appear in the model.
With two-point placement, you choose two specific points inside your Revit or Navisworks model and VisualLive takes note of these. It’s important to keep in mind that the first point is the placement of a model and the second point will be the model’s rotation. When you are onsite, you simply have to go to the physical location where those points exist, open up your model, and select them again inside the overlaid model.
With markers in place in the real-world, the AR device can use the markers to overlay the virtual model on the real-world jobsite.
So how do you choose between these two different placement options? You’ll want to take into account the drift. Drift is where the virtual model no longer aligns with the physical world,.This is caused by poor tracking on a device, movement around the model, or having a model with a large amount of data.
If you are using a LiDAR-enabled device, two-point placement is recommended because it is easier and more accurate. Two-point placement is also recommended for prefabrications where you won’t have to move much or walk far, meaning the model has little drift. If you’re using a non-LiDAR device or have a large model, visual marker placement is recommended over two-point for enhanced accuracy.
3. Section your model
The next thing to consider is sectioning your model. BIM models often contain more information than is needed to survey a floor or single room, and large models can take time to load. Sectioning your models will ensure your device’s performance is never compromised, even with a complex model. Sectioning a model takes place within Revit and Navisworks before the model is uploaded to VisualLive.
If you are viewing your model in 1:1 scale in AR, you do not need to see the whole model at once. For that reason, it makes sense to section your model. This is also necessary because of the limitations of the device you may be using. If you do not section your model, you may experience lag in the display of the Hololens or receive a warning saying your model has too much geometry. For viewing on a tablet, a model does not require sectioning because those devices typically have more memory.
You can section your model by floor, meaning the ground floor may be one section and the first floor another. You can also section it by zone; for example, the west wing may be one zone and the east wing another. Consider how you would like to view the model onsite, and section accordingly.
4. Assemble your team
Efficient office-to-field communication is critical to the success of any project. For a successful implementation of AR technology, identify the key stakeholders in your project and delegate tasks accordingly. To start, nominate an office champion and a field champion. The field champion will anchor the virtual content in the field. In some cases, this will be the same person as the office champion.
The office champion should be a BIM professional or an avid Revit and Navisworks user with access to the building model and VisualLive. They should be responsible for sectioning the model, choosing marker placement, and pushing the model to the cloud. If you are using visual marker placement, this team member should be responsible for printing and cutting out the markers.
The field champion, who may be the same user, then takes these visual markers to the site and puts them in the right location. They scan the marker and make adjustments if necessary. Once the field champion has placed the content correctly in the real world, they can lock or anchor its position. After this, any user that comes onto the site will immediately be able to see the model in the correct position – whether they’re using the same kind of device or not.
When it comes to marker placement, good communication between team members is critical. If placement is incorrect, there is no way for the model to be anchored to the physical site.
5. Consider cloud connections
Prepare your cloud connections. It’s best to set up these integrations in VisualLive while in the office or somewhere with a stable internet connection before you head out to the jobsite.
VisualLive integrates with several content management systems and cloud storage solutions like Google Drive and OneDrive. It also integrates with project management platforms like Procore, allowing users to upload requests for information (RFIs) or punch list items to Procore directly from a tablet, mobile device, or Microsoft Hololens headset.
6. Mind your markers!
Jobsites are dynamic and constantly changing. This could impact your process and how accurately your models appear in AR, particularly in the case of using visual markers.
Fortunately, you can prepare for this with good marker placement, even on busy sites with high foot traffic.
For example, it is recommended that you tape your visual markers to a steel pillar or wall, rather than on the floor. On sites with lots of foot traffic, people may step on or tear the marker if it’s on the floor. Additionally, the HoloLens needs to be within about six inches to recognize textures or images. Putting your markers in awkward places can result in a less than ideal user experience.
Remember to place your marker on a vertical surface and in the exact location it exists within the model. It’s a good idea to match the corner of the marker to something else, for example, the intersection of a horizontal and vertical surface, or a precise height on a wall. Laminating markers can make them more durable, but be sure to use a matte finish, as shiny or reflective surfaces do not interact well with LiDAR. Taking these additional considerations into account will help ensure your model is aligned accurately on any jobsite.
You now have the knowledge you need to bring your BIM data onsite with VisualLive. Start by choosing the device and placement method that is the right fit for your team and your project, then be sure to set aside the time necessary to adequately section and prepare your model data. VisualLive is designed to work with the devices you already have and integrate into your existing technology workflows. Let our expert team help you get started.
Want to dive deeper into these topics? Watch our full webinar, Six Essential Tips for Using BIM Models in AR.
Start your free trial of VisualLive.