Microsoft HoloLens: making waves within the construction industry
Microsoft HoloLens is the world’s first fully self-contained holographic computer, running Windows 10. While we’ve made incredible advances in the way in which we interact with computers, we are still constrained by the need to conform to the ways computers recognize our commands through mouse clicks or by touching a screen.
Using holograms, the user can pin their digital content, such as apps, information, and even multi-dimensional videos, in the physical space around you, so you can interact with them in the same ways that you interact with other physical objects. It’s a great example of mixed reality – the ability to blend holograms into the real world.
The technology is completely self-contained, meaning there is no need for wires, phones, or a connection to a PC. HoloLens allows the user to pin holograms in their physical environment and provides a new way to see the world.
A hologram is an object like any other object in the real world with only one difference: instead of being made of physical matter, a hologram is made entirely of light. The holograms seen with Microsoft HoloLens can appear life-like and can move, be shaped, and change according to interaction with users or the physical environment in which they are visible.
HoloLens in construction
Aviad Almagor is Director of the Mixed Reality Programme at Trimble, providers of technology to the construction industry. Here are his thoughts on how HoloLens can transform construction sites in the future:
Mixed Reality technology such as Microsoft HoloLens and Trimble’s Mixed Reality applications blends real world objects with digital content, interactively, and in real time. It helps users efficiently interpret physical and digital information, and the spatial relations between them.
Unlike Virtual reality - in which the user is fully immersed in a digital world, disconnected and isolated from the surrounding - mixed reality is anchored to the physical space. This allows keeping the user engaged while enriching the environment with related digital content.
There are three main aspects of mixed reality which provide clear advantage for construction workers:
1. Real 3D Visualization
The Architecture, Engineering and Construction industry (AEC) is spatial by definition. The last few years’ transition from 2D documents to 3D models was a natural evolution, which improved team communication and coordination. 3D models are common today, but still, interacting with volumetric data behind a 2D screen is extremely limited. Mixed Reality and holographic technology bring the models out of the screen and provide users the ability to engage and interact with design data more intuitively. Moreover, unleashing the 3D model democratizes the data by offering a natural way to experience and understand the design. While years of education and practice might train architects to visualize their designs in 3D, other stakeholders have a hard time deciphering them.
By using Mixed Reality, stakeholders can walk around and explore the design in real 3D without the need for an expert to guide them and dictate their point of view. The freedom to move along the Reality - Virtuality Continuum is an additional advantage of Mixed Reality, with a major impact on the efficiency along the design-build-operate workflow. For some decisions or specific tasks, a real “unmodelled” world is required as visual input.
For other tasks, a mixed reality – a “world partially modelled” – or even a completely immersive Virtual Reality mode is ideal. With Mixed Reality, the user controls the “mix” and adjusts it according to his task requirements. Mixed Reality and holographic technology also improves remote collaboration. The ability to share 3D holograms with remote stakeholders, including participants’ position and gaze, improves communication and collaboration efficiency.
2. Seamless Translation
In every construction project, there is a decisive process, in which design is transformed into reality, abstract ideas are translated into physical objects. As almost every project is unique, site-specific and labour-based, intensive and accurate “translation” of the design information is required. The current translation process of turning design documents into reality is a constant struggle. It is a complex cognitive process in which wrong interpretation of data often leads to costly errors, quality issues and rework.
Digital 3D models reduce the level of abstraction and help clarify the design intent, but still, at the execution stage, there is a clear boundary between documentation and the real world. Mixed Reality technology blurs this line. With Mixed Reality, the information is superimposed on the physical environment. This minimises the need for translation and reduces subjective interpretation.
The user visualises the design in context, and can better understand, interact with and execute the required actions in real time. The immediate visual feedback also supports a more effective production control process. Overlaying design on as-build structures reveals any deviation and provides immediate feedback.
3. Extending the Digital Thread
Integration of business workflows and improved communication are clear goals in today’s AEC industry. The silo structure and the need to re-create data, when moving from one stage to the other, are still sources for major inefficiencies. Project delivery methods like IPD and technology changes such as Building Information Modelling (BIM) support this trend and have proven to positively impact project quality, cost and schedule. Mixed Reality technology supports integration and collaboration along three main axes:
The Project Stage Axis: Design to Build (and Operate): Moving along this axis, Mixed Reality brings 3D data to life and puts information in the user’s hands without the need to change or adjust the data format.
A sign-off BIM model can be projected in context to guide construction teams on-site, and later, by facility management teams when evaluating required changes or maintenance work.
The Digital to Physical Axis: Holographic display is not limited to 3D models. In fact, using Microsoft HoloLens, multi-layered datasets can be overlaid as holograms on the real world. A partial list includes 2D documents, energy analysis, light simulation, acoustics, layout data and equipment metadata. The ability to integrate digital and physical content and present data in context improves communication and leverages confidence in decision-making.
Office to Field Axis: Design to Build, Build to Design Sharing up-to-date design data with on-site teams is crucial in the dynamic construction environment.
Using Mixed Reality technology, construction, teams benefit from access to geo-located, context-based data, which can be projected and anchored to the physical environment around them. The ability to map the as-built physical environment supports communication from the field to the office and completes the Build to Design – Design to Build loop.
Read the January 2017 issue of Construction Global here
XYZ Reality receives £20m to develop Assisted Reality
Founded in 2017, XYZ Reality aims to "revolutionise" the construction sector with its Engineering-Grade Augmented Reality (AR) solution, Holosite.
Designed to enable an on time and on budget delivery of construction projects, by eliminating building errors, HoloSite has been available to select customers through an early access programme and has already been used on projects totalling a value of over £1.5bn in the last year.
With approximately 98% of construction megaprojects facing cost overruns or delays and 7-11% of project costs being spent on correcting errors, XYZ Reality’s purpose-built integrated AR solution directly addresses these issues.
With its safety certified AR hardhat, cloud platform and in-built proprietary software, Holosite accurately positions high fidelity 3D design models on construction sites, enabling teams to build it right, first time. The technology system has been used on complex construction projects including data centres, pharmaceutical facilities and airports.
This funding will be used to accelerate the company’s ambition of transforming projects by preparing for HoloSite’s commercial launch in the USA and continuing investment in strengthening research and development. The company is also growing its London team to include key hires across technology, manufacturing, sales and marketing.
David Mitchell, Founder and CEO of XYZ Reality, said developing its engineering-Grade AR solution helping construction teams identify errors in real-time is just the start.
"The next phase is Assisted Reality, where our spatial computing technology will have the intelligence to automatically detect and report issues in the field. And ultimately, the goal is builders building from holograms. Our vision of developing world changing products aligns with Octopus Ventures’ mission of investing in companies that are powering the next industrial revolution. We look forward to building history.”
The latest round of funding is led by Octopus Ventures, one of the largest and most active venture investors in Europe, known for its commitment of investing in companies and founders that are changing the world. Octopus Ventures has a strong track record, spanning investment in health, fintech, consumer, B2B software, and deep tech. This includes WaveOptics, one of Octopus Ventures’ early investments in Augmented Reality, which was recently acquired by Snap Inc.
Rebecca Hunt, early-stage investor at Octopus Ventures, said: "We’ve always invested in entrepreneurs leading industry change and XYZ is doing just that. It's solving a massive problem that costs the construction industry billions every year, using its Engineering-Grade Augmented Reality solution to spearhead a shift in the sector’s approach. The founding team of David, Umar and Murray have deep domain and technical expertise, which we believe makes XYZ uniquely placed to drive this transformation.”
XYZ Reality also announces a new partnership with Mace, for the construction of a hyper-scale data centre in Europe. With speed to market being particularly essential for mission critical builds, HoloSite’s AR technology will have a significant role in supporting an accurate and time effective build for Mace, which last week appointed Jon McElroy its new Managing Director for International Technology.
Mace Technical Director, Stephen Henley, said: “Mace has built a reputation of redefining the boundaries of ambition, always bringing efficiency, innovation and responsibility to our projects. With the implementation of XYZ’s groundbreaking AR system, we continue to be committed to delivering projects faster, safer and better than ever before.”
Five years ago, Heather Bellini of Goldman Sachs Research expected virtual and augmented reality to become an $80 billion market by 2025.
But according to new research by global tech market advisory firm ABI Research, nearly 28 million augmented and mixed reality smart glasses will ship in 2026, while the total global AR/MR market will surpass $175 billion in the same year.
"Major tech players across hardware, software, and services look familiar in the consumer space, contributing to strong and consistent overall growth," says Eric Abbruzzese, Research Director for ABI Research. "Those big tech names, with active investment and product ranging from already available, to announced, to all-but-announced, are creating a consumer AR market that will be dynamic and welcoming rather than struggling and immature."