Global engineering firm Aecom has discussed its intention to run a pilot project to deploy Microsoft HoloLens augmented reality headsets in engineering and construction projects on three continents.
The aim is to take 3D modelling to the next step, enabling project workers and clients to explore the construction projects on which they are working.
Aecom describes it as a "mixed reality" project in which "technology supplements conventional working practices" to "improve communication, collaboration and visualisation".
Aecom is building the project with Trimble, a company best known for its GPS products. Aecom claimed that it will be the first commercial implementation of HoloLens in the construction and engineering industries.
One of the first projects will be with the Serpentine Galleries' annual architecture programme in London. The programme this year includes four summer houses with complex, unconventional structures, and the new technology has aided in visualisation and design review, according to Aecom president Stephen Kadenacy.
"Exploring complex structures in a mixed reality environment has huge potential to accelerate the engineering design process," he said.
"With this technology we can gain greater clarity earlier in the design review process than with 2D drawings or 3D models on screen, and team members in different locations, each wearing a headset, can simultaneously explore the same holographic projections. We're very excited to be working with Trimble at the cutting edge of mixed reality."
Combined with Trimble's software, Aecom designers and engineers can view a complex structure as if it were a 3D model placed on a table, or zoom in for a 1:1 view that simulates what it would be like to move through the structural framework.
Tools such as Rhino, 3dsmax, Revit, Maya and even Sketchup can help designers generate 3D schemes of their work for themselves and clients to explore, and this is the first time that it has been taken to the next level with off-the-shelf virtual reality headsets.
Furthermore, being able to do this in a "shared experience" enables team members to point out potential difficulties or unforeseen conflicts in an evolving design, said Trimble president Bryn Fosburgh. Participants can log observations and create group action plans during the session.
Aecom is deploying HoloLens devices in London, Hong Kong and Denver, allowing engineers and architects in these different locations to share the same holographic models simultaneously. Movements and interactions are linked via the internet, and Trimble provides the underlying connectivity technology.
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