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Why Construction PMs and Astronauts Gravitate towards Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality (AR) is being used by people with tough jobs--like astronauts and construction workers. Experts in jobs like these use augmented reality to answer questions on the fly. At Argyle, we specialize in Construction AR, but our worlds converge every time there is a new Space X launch and we gather like a family watching a moon launch in the sixties.

Why use AR on Construction Jobsites and the International Space Station

With all its specialties, neither construction project managers (PMs) nor Astronauts can know absolutely everything about what they oversee, especially not when minutes count.

Before launch, Astronauts are using Virtual Reality to test their experience in space. Once they get to the international space station, the Hololens’ behavior in space then becomes a bit like a guide to the galaxy. Astronauts on the ISS are using Hololens2 to repair equipment that is difficult enough to understand by mechanics on the ground. Case in point, critical scientific instruments were repaired by astronaut Megan McArthur who used spatial instructions on the Hololens and guidance from Earth to fix the Cold Atom Lab.

Project managers, often saturated in construction technology, like easy Revit to AR apps for quality assurance (QA) and trade coordination on their jobsites. With Augmented Reality Apps like Argyle, the process is further simplified. With no pre-planning required, project engineers click their as-is Revit model into Hololens with one click. They can compare the plans to the work in progress and identify constructability issues early. Sure, it's not rocket science, but constructing a habitable building is a constantly moving machine that requires precision and up-to-the-minute communication.

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Challenges of using Augmented Reality in Construction or Outer Space

Augmented reality’s default alignment tools are not compatible with the non-earth based non-ground based uses. Using AR in space was actually a technological feat. AR is an earthbound technology that has gravity, different acceleration baselines, different floor-planes, and vertical axes.

Likewise in Construction, default alignment tools aren’t up to the daily changes of the job. In construction, we take the model and the metadata of the digital twin and align it to its physical counterpart, the geo-jobsite. Project managers walk the entire project multiple times in a day using their builder's intuition and deep understanding of construction to identify and solve problems early.

What they never had until now is one-to-one AR. Construction is, by its nature, something that changes over time. Argyle's Resilient Interdependent Spatial Alignment technology (RISA) helps the digital twin find its location in a changing world.

Building Information Modeling (BIM) software is slow, as anyone who has opened a large project knows too well. So it doesn't always feel easy to use your models outside their original design use case. BIM Models are notoriously huge and AR devices are small, wire-free and need to process immense amounts of information about the world and your data.

So how do you effectively leverage existing BIM Models and BIM workflows? Argyle does all this work for users in the background, using a combination of culling techniques and a file format we helped develop called gLTF-BIM. gLTF-BIM creates a small accessible file that shows the entirety of the building information file.

Change your assumptions

Changing your assumptions is what makes AR - an inherently earthbound technology - compatible with use in space. What appears to be "up" and "down" matters a great deal to the user interface, so what do you do when gravity has always been used as the down inputs? Want to know how space affects the alignment? Dive into CTO, Logan Smith's talk about AR in Microgravity

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Data needs to be accessible where you need it. Like a tool on your belt, or the well worn set of plans, your quick references must be pretty instantly accessible.

Use of AR in construction presented similar challenges that limited use cases to small rooms. Models aligned are limited in footprint size before hardware related device drift renders the view useless.

If a structure can’t respond to the weights and groans and winds placed on it, it breaks. Every good structural engineer knows to build her buildings with flexibility or they’re too breakable for modern use.

Like a static structure, static alignment will also break.

Thanks to RISA, Argyle’s alignment is dynamic and responsive. This allowed us to change the assumption from single location, single use AR, to a blanket of augmented reality holograms on a jobsite. Unless you're using something like Argyle, this wasn't possible.

In terms of AR use, Construction is the edge case of the use on the ground and Argyle is leading the AR experience development for the frontline worker. Expect Argyle on mobile technology soon - our iOS release is slated for early 2022.

Argyle specializes in AR for the built environment - aligning big data to large spaces. Is your AR software development team implementing a solution we could help with? Contact Maret Thatcher for enterprise licensing opportunities.

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