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FHWA to Study Augmented Reality in Construction

Thursday, March 16, 2017

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Reality might be getting an upgrade in the construction industry.

The Federal Highway Administration is researching augmented reality, an immersive technology that allows a user to see virtual computer-generated images mixed with their actual surroundings in real time.

Study and Recent Real-World Use

A listing was posted on the Federal Business Opportunities website on March 8 under the Department of Transportation titled, “Leveraging Augmented Reality Technology for Highway Construction.” In the description, the program background says AR could “assist project managers and engineers with the delivery and accuracy of their construction projects, safer and in a timely manner resulting in greater efficiency. "

"With the capability of navigating through all phases of a construction project," it continues, "managers would be able to catch any errors or mistakes before they present themselves or change and augment the design and construction details.”


In January, Microsoft announced two trials the company was working on in collaboration with the Construction Information Technology Lab at the University of Cambridge and Trimble.

Although this study aims to review a variety of systems and focus on the data generated by AR, this isn’t the first time the construction industry has crossed paths with the still relatively new technology.

Employees at commercial construction company Gilbane Building Company (Providence, Rhode Island) started using Microsoft’s Hololens in June 2016, and senior manager John Myers said that the $3,000 piece of technology paid for itself almost immediately when they allowed him to realize an order of steel frames were too long for a job’s design.

“That one catch paid for the HoloLens,” Myers said in an interview with Technology Review.

More in the Works

In January, Microsoft announced two trials the company was working on in collaboration with the Construction Information Technology Lab at the University of Cambridge and Trimble Dimensions, the company that designed the product SketchUp Viewer, which is the first time the HoloLens application was commercially available.

Both the Automated Progress Monitoring trial and the Automated Bridge Damage Detection trial are aiming to take processes that normally require a lot of travel and reporting and consolidate them, allowing inspectors or structural engineers to view all aspects of a job through the mixed reality of the HoloLens.

“The construction sector is undergoing rapid transformation as a result of the revolution in digital engineering,” said Dr. Ioannis Brilakis, Laing O’Rourke Lecturer, Director of Construction IT Laboratory at the University of Cambridge. “[The trials] will enable us to work together to push forward our agenda to develop new, transformative tools and technologies to deliver a much safer and more productive construction industry and help build the infrastructure on which the well-being of society depends.”

While the FHWA study will look at more applications other than HoloLens, the objective is the same: “to identify the availability, accessibility, and reliability of using AR for construction inspection and review, QA, training, and improved project management through real-time information in a real-world environment.”

The FHWA study is currently seeking sources and will close to responses at 12 p.m. EST on March 17.


Tagged categories: Commercial Construction; Construction; Design; Federal Highway Administration (FHWA); Government; Government contracts

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