Augmented Reality – Bringing BIM out of the ‘Virtual’ box



With the advancements in Building Information Modeling (BIM), it has been possible to create information-rich, highly coordinated and intelligent virtual models that help visualize the potential problems on site before construction begins. But what happens during and after construction?

Considering the complexity and the quantity of information in a virtual model, it is common for project site managers to lose the context of what to access where. Very often, the intelligent virtual data is only limited to the office personnel while the field crew, who needs the data the most, does not have an access to it. This indicates that there is a need to fill the gap between the reality of the site and the virtuality of the BIM model. And Augmented Reality (AR) seems to be doing just that.

It superimposes the computer generated virtual content over a live view of the world which not only contains the input from the BIM model but may also have sound, video, graphics or GPS data inputs enhancing our perception of real world situations. It has the potential to change how site managers and construction workers can interact and access to virtual information in real-time. Various AR experiments have been conducted using projection systems, Head-up displays such as the screens for pilots in airplanes, Head-mounted display systems or devices resembling eye glasses. But with the massive popularity of smart phones and tablets, BIM and AR are coming even closer.

Now, the owner can easily take the tablet to the project location and look through the BIM model from various angles to visualize how the facility will look on the real site. The design professionals can walk around the model at site and have full scale visualization of the complex design elements. Construction firms can combine 4D BIM models with AR tools and study trade sequencing. Facility mangers can virtually look through the real walls and identify the location of services to address maintenance issues.

HOCHTIEF ViCon takes the concept further to infrastructure projects by connecting 3D virtual model having GPS data inputs, with AR tools. Infrastructure planners can now view the locations of underground utilities without excavating. This on-site information about the hidden infrastructure elements can be of immense value to the owner even after many years of the project completion especially while carrying out maintenance or reconstruction.


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