AR and VR; False Dawn or New Paradigm?
Revolutionizing building and construction, a field comprising some of the oldest professions in the world is no mean task. Previously, materials such as cement, steel, and glass have caused significant shifts in the sector, while others such as transparent concrete have only been false dawns. Currently, it is computing that is the unlikely cause of a paradigm shift in the built environment, with Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) stretching the frontiers of possibility in visualisation.
Augmenting implies supplementation; thus Augmented Reality (AR) enhances an observer’s appreciation of a view by superimposing computer-generated graphics, video, or sound on in situ conditions and seamlessly merging them for improved interpretation. Conversely, Virtual Reality (VR) creates an artificial scene in its entirety These virtual conditions and objects are computer generated but harbour similarities with reality. An aspect of AR and VR that sets them apart from traditional CAD models is that they are immersive, interactive, navigable full-scale models of proposed developments. Using the two technologies places the observer inside the project, as opposed to older models where one’s glimpse into the project is only from static renders. The difference between the two technologies is that while AR uses the real environment as the base onto which sensory information is overlaid, VR is independent of real environments, much like video games.
Imagine a team of developers, property managers, architects, engineers, contractors, and stakeholders all taking a walk through a completed building, experiencing the textures, scales, and sounds therein. AR and VR do one better: the same walkthrough can involve an unlimited number of people with no crowding, and people physically worlds apart can meet ‘inside’ a project any time. Furthermore, AR and VR allows the said walk to take place even before construction starts. This offers more information as it allows the observer to see hidden details such as the structural elements, piping, and trunking systems. Abstract data like the quality of space, sense of place, scale, and feelings such as ambiance, enclosure, and continuity within a space can now be interrogated before construction. AR and VR have democratised construction, and every nook in a project is visible and therefore open to discussion before it is actualised in concrete, steel, glass, or other materials. Lastly, in AR and VR, the industry is comfortably poised to achieve increased productivity, quicker construction times, easier management and supervision as well as improved collaboration between stakeholders.
There is a whole spectrum of gadgets offering AR and VR experiences. This makes added value services such as; AR stakeholder presentations and VR viewings of proposed developments doable and inexpensive. This is seen in construction events and conferences where tech start-ups in construction offer free demos of applicability. What do you think are other applications of AR and VR in the built environment?