Is Construction Ready for a Dose of (Augmented) Reality?

Published in ENR Tech
January 7, 2014
By James Benham, President of JBKnowledge, Makers of SmartReality

In 2008, I tested out an augmented reality mobile app called Nearest Tube that allowed me to use my smartphone camera to navigate my way to the nearest London Underground entrance without having to unfold a giant paper map and confirm my status as a tourist. At the time, this seemed nothing short of magical. Five years later, thanks to Google Glass and many other solutions, augmented reality (AR) is finally getting the hype it deserves.

At its simplest, augmented reality is the convergence of data, cameras, mobile devices, and live end users, creating a multi-dimensional, real-time, interactive virtual environment that is overlaid on real world live imagery. The data element comes from all possible sources, including but not limited to social, geographic, geospatial, audio, video, graphic, and computational sources. Now, with the ability to depend on computers to organize all this data, end users are able to spend more time interpreting, designing, and building with that data. This frees users from the confines of a computer and allows them to experience technology through innovations like augmented reality.

Inspired by solutions like String™ Labs, I’ve had lots of time to brainstorm the more pragmatic approaches to augmented reality that the building industry could employ. Imagine if an iPad pointed at the roof of a home could replace it with an x-ray view of the loft to be added above. Imagine, as one of my clients envisioned, an electrical subcontractor walking onto a project site and letting a tablet or headset show him exactly where the conduit should be placed in the walls. Imagine quadcopters flying above a vacant lot, rendering a 3D model, to scale, using an app similar to SmartReality on a tablet or smartphone, allowing developers to discuss placement of…

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