Applying Augmented Reality to Construction

Jeff Kim and Darren Olsen AR/VR research

McWhorter School of Building Science faculty Jeff Kim and Darren Olsen are applying augmented reality technology in new ways to improve inspections and training in building construction.

Augmented reality (AR) is computer generated images or graphics that are overlaid on the real world to allow people to interact with their environment in a different way. Often presented through an interface, such as a phone, tablet or headset, AR technology is being developed for use in a number of different ways including in video games, education and shopping. Kim and Olsen are engaging with this technology to solve problems with construction inspections and quality.

Working with technology firm Enklu, Kim and Olsen have used an AR authoring tool and Microsoft HoloLens headsets to test the application of AR in construction inspections. In the first test scenario Kim and Olsen focused on installation of embeds. Olsen explained, “Correctly identifying any errors in the installation early in construction will save time and money on the construction project.” While wearing the HoloLens, information from construction plans are superimposed over the wearer’s vision, which allows them to compare the planned location of embeds with what is actually installed at the site. For Kim and Olsen’s initial study, building construction students served as participants; one group of students were given paper plans and asked to examine whether embeds have been correctly installed and another wore a head mounted HoloLens and asked to complete the same task. The study found that participants using the AR headsets were better able to identify embeds and problems; participants using AR did especially well at identifying embeds with a narrow profile, much better than those reviewing the paper plans alone. The research team made some adjustments based on their initial findings and finalized the second round of testing in Summer 2021.

While the research team continues work on this initial application to construction inspections, they are also considering other applications of this technology in construction. Building construction graduate student Jack Renfroe worked with Kim and Olsen to examine whether AR could be applied in workplace training to help address the skilled labor shortage in construction. In this study, Renfroe worked with Kim and Olsen to develop an AR application to teach novice workers about wall framing techniques.

Kim said, “This research is important because while the tools we are developing can be used to assist practitioners with the inspection process, we can use the same tool to help train those that are just starting out in their careers.”

In the next phase of research, Kim and Olsen hope to work with industry partners to test the application of AR in the field for both inspections and training.

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Jeff Kim, Darren Olsen