The Uses of Microsoft Hololens in Construction

Since its launch in January 2016, Microsoft Hololens has proved itself to be a serious game changer. Its applications extend far beyond the world of gaming and AR experiences, as it positions itself, in true Microsoft fashion, as the ultimate device for use in industry. The technology has proved its worth in a variety of industries, and Hololens in Construction and Architecture is proving increasingly indispensable.

Microsoft launched Trimble’s SketchUp Viewer for Hololens in November 2016. SketchUp has been a useful tool for 3D design professionals for some time, but when combined with the mixed reality functionality offered by Hololens, it literally takes on a whole new dimension.

The 3D models built within SketchUp can, with the use of Hololens, be easily manipulated and viewed in detail through mixed-reality, boosting efficiency in some of the most previously time- and labour-intensive tasks.

Since launching the SketchUp Viewer, Microsoft has continued its work with Trimble, exploring additional ways that mixed reality technology can be utilised within the architecture, engineering, construction and operations (AECO) industries. As part of their research at the Construction Information Technology Lab at the University of Cambridge, Microsoft has now announced two new trials which aim to bring further efficiency and productivity to these industries.

Automated Progress Monitoring

Professionals within AECO industries will be able to carry out detailed inspections of structures in mixed reality using the Automated Progress Monitoring tools being trialled.

Currently, such inspections are labour-intensive, time-consuming, and susceptible to human error. Visual inspections and the writing of reports and filling in forms are gruelling work, as the worker must extract information from a series of different drawings and databases. With these new tools, however, they will be able to see all the physical and digital information visually, allowing them to cross-reference, report and check all aspects quicker. Additionally, collaboration with site representatives will be facilitated, effectively streamlining the entire inspection process.

Automated Bridge Damage Detection

When it comes to routine inspections of bridges, structural engineers are sent out directly to the site. The Automated Bridge Damage Detection functionality being trialled on Hololens will negate the need for on-site inspection.

Instead, high-resolution imagery can be captured by local teams and sent to inspection engineers for assessment within the mixed reality environment. The imagery is automatically mapped onto 3D models of the bridge in question, allowing the structural engineers to review the integrity of the bridge on Hololens. From here, they can make recommendations for repairs or other preventative measures in a more efficient way. This will not only save costs but also help to ensure no bridges enter their ‘failure zone’, which would lead to significant disruption to traffic through road closures and so on.

These are very exciting developments for everybody working in Construction. However, it is still early days, with a lot of work still to be done before mass uptake within AECO industries can be implemented. Whilst things are still in progress, Microsoft is confident about the possibilities, stating that their trials with the University of Cambridge and with Trimble itself are “set to bring productivity and sustainability gains for the [construction] sector across the world”.

Trimble itself is also excited about the use of its software with Hololens, saying:

“This initiative has helped us to inform the next frontier of technology within the sector – especially in areas such as construction, where IT has traditionally been underutilised. At Trimble, we’re excited about the potential mixed reality has to transform this industry, and partnering with Cambridge and Microsoft is just the beginning.”

To find out more about the collaborative work between Microsoft Hololens, Trimble, and the University of Cambridge, take a look at this video from the University’s YouTube channel:

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