Is the Future of Construction Management Extended Reality?

By Franco Faraudo

You have heard of VR and maybe even AR, but have you heard about XR? XR stands for extended reality and is an umbrella term for virtual, augmented, and mixed reality technologies. It is also the term the architecture and engineering industries use for the immersive 3D imaging being deployed on construction sites worldwide.

One significant difference between XR and VR/AR is that XR doesn’t require a headset. Many extended reality applications simply use a tablet or smartphone to overlay important data or visualizations over whatever the camera is pointed at. This is crucial because, despite the advancements in AR headsets, they have not achieved the adoption levels many hoped for.

Apple’s revolutionary Vision Pro headset attracted attention when it was first released but has only sold around 200,000 units. Additionally, headsets like the Apple Vision Pro are not well-suited for construction sites. They are incompatible with hard hats, delicate, sensitive to moisture and dust, and still require a cord and a battery pack. Extended use of VR headsets is known to cause eye strain, fatigue, and even motion sickness. These issues are typically nuisances but can pose safety threats on job sites.

Tech companies have heavily invested in XR, hoping it will become the new standard for modern construction. In 2022, Autodesk acquired XR developer Wild to add immersive capabilities to its popular design tools. Microsoft has worked with infrastructure provider Bentley Systems to develop its own XR tools. This investment has provided construction companies with various tools to work in extended reality, but these are only useful if firms can train their staff properly.

Currently, designers and engineers use XR applications to ensure design specifications are adhered to during construction. But this is just the beginning. Eventually, workers could be equipped with headsets to help them measure materials and layout floorplans. For this to become a reality, however, headsets will need to be more conducive to extended use and the messy conditions on job sites.

Extended reality technology is improving and will eventually become a staple in the construction industry. The benefits of using extended reality to make large construction projects more efficient and less error-prone are clear. However, for widespread adoption of XR tech, we will need to see more robust hardware, more user-friendly software, and a more educated and tech-savvy workforce.

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