Will AR transform hospital construction?
The pandemic has focused minds on healthcare like never before with construction projects mushrooming globally.
Overall, the New Hospital Programme within the government’s long-term health infrastructure plan will help develop new sustainability standards, planning capabilities and care and workforce models. It will also implement "cutting-edge digital technologies" across the NHS, and will support an integrated approach to building new healthcare infrastructure using modern methods of construction.
One of those technologies gathering momentum is Augmented Reality (AR), which projects virtual images into the user’s line of sight, and can be used on-site as a tool for creating the structure exactly as the design intended.
According to a Research Dive report, the global AR in healthcare market is projected to generate revenue of $1,918.6 million by 2026, at a CAGR of 25.5% in the forecast period from 2019-2026.
London-based construction technology start-up XYZ Reality and UCL, were recently awarded a government grant, via UKRI and the Innovate UK Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP), to develop XYZ Reality’s AR solution.
Founded in 2017, XYZ Reality developed Engineering-Grade AR to tackle some of the most pervasive and costly issues facing the construction industry. Its technology enables users to view hyperscale BIM models on-site in real-time and to millimetre accuracy, making it particularly beneficial for projects with complex MEP services, such as hospitals or data centres.
Dr Grant Mills, Faculty Lead for Health and Associate Professor, said hospitals are complex construction environments because of the sheer range of MEP services involved. "This often leads to clashes and errors in the build phase, and the need for expensive and time-consuming re-work," he said.
Prof Duncan Wilson, Professor of Connected Environments in UCL Bartlett CASA, said the grant offers an important opportunity to understand how AR can help different users interact digitally with the environment in novel ways, and by doing so improve productivity, and deliver time and cost savings.
XYZ Reality’s founder and CEO David Mitchell said its Engineering-Grade AR technology is already being deployed on construction projects with the same levels of complexity as hospital builds, and is generating significant time and cost savings.
"I’m passionate about supporting the NHS, so I’m glad that this research will enable us to fully understand the benefits that our technology can offer these specific projects, and help those constructing UK hospitals to build it right, first time," he said.
New technologies were key to delivering projects in double-quick time as the pandemic swept the world.
The North Lantau Hospital Hong Kong Infection Control Centre opened in late February following five months of construction. Using BIM, it produced 3D renditions of architectural projects, and shared layouts and other information with factories in mainland China, reducing on-site construction waste.
According to estimates by Goldman Sachs, AR and VR are expected to grow into a $95 billion market by 2025.
But in terms of AR and new tech's benefits to healthcare, it's still early days. The King's Fund study published in April found "very little evidence of their impact on the health system to date, or benefits such as cost-effectiveness," though AR is being used for surgical planning and training.
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."