VR (Virtual Reality) is a computer-generated, artificial simulation of a real life environment. It stimulates the user’s vision and hearing, making them feel like they are experiencing reality first-hand.
AR (Augmented Reality) is an interactive experience of a real-world environment, whereby computer-generated imagery is added to the reality that you see. An easy way of understanding this is by thinking of the popular game Pokemon Go!
The difference between the two is that where VR is an entirely artificial environment, AR provides digital information and imagery laid over a real-world environment.
From health and safety, to training, to review of design plans, VR and AR technologies are improving the way in which the construction industry works.
Healthy and Safety is of paramount importance within construction, with companies across the industry striving to constantly improve their Health and Safety practices.
With the introduction of VR and AR, companies are enabled to implement innovative ways of conducting health and safety training, such as rehearsals of real life situations, allowing for split-second decisions and responses to be replicated. These rehearsals can be carried out remotely, centrally and in a safe environment, meaning that participants will have access to much more enhanced training than before, but in a true to life situation, hopefully resulting in a more prepared, appropriate and potentially lifesaving action should they ever find themselves in the situation onsite.
Another element in which the implementation of these new technologies is already proving to be extremely useful is in the review of plans and designs.
Construction projects are ever-increasingly on tight budgets and tight schedules, and getting things right from that start can go a long way to ensuring that these are met. As such, before breaking ground, companies are beginning to work with architects, with the use of VR, to walk through designs, to allow stakeholders such as contractors, subcontractors and architects a more comprehensive understanding of the project.
This use of the technology is consequentially reducing the number of change orders once a development is underway, resulting in both time and cost savings for all parties.
Once a development is up and running, onsite inspections, such as those carried out by Premier Guarantee Risk Management Surveyors, can be greatly enhanced by the use of AR.
Using wearable technology, Inspectors are able to accurately align and compare what is being built against the Building Information Model. Measuring becomes automated and therefore more accurate and the capturing and documenting of data becomes an on-the-spot digital process. As a result, problem areas become easier to recognise and can be identified and shared with the appropriate people instantly.
Though this technology is still relatively in its infancy, and the cost of the technology itself is a factor, if Augmented and Virtual Reality are to become the norm within the construction industry, with all phases of development adopting it, then it could improve both the cost and time efficiency of residential and commercial building on a vast scale.