The construction industry has large, complex sites to manage, strict project deadlines, hazardous working conditions, and tight profit margins.

It is under increasing pressure to digitalise and improve its environmental, social, and governance (ESG) credentials.

Augmented reality (AR) is one technology that can help. It allows the user to see the real world overlaid with digital data, including sensor-based data, location-based data, sound, video, or graphics. AR can support progress monitoring, design, and understanding of 3D models and increase project accuracy by identifying errors early.

Why construction needs AR

Construction managers often deal with multiple suppliers, contractors, and stakeholders. This can naturally lead to communication issues and disagreements. AR is a visualisation tool, but it is also an important collaboration and communication tool. Collaboration is easier when everyone can look at the same thing.

AR enables this, as devices can be integrated with headphones and microphones so remote experts can communicate with operatives while observing what is in front of them. The expert can display instructions and highlight necessary tools, which is useful when building complex systems. This enables real-time decision-making and eliminates the need for frequent travel, saving time and resources.

AR vendors such as Autodesk, Microsoft, Qualcomm, Unity, and Vuzix are important players in the construction sector. Many specialist AR vendors are also developing hardware, platforms, or apps to improve data visualisation, project management, and collaboration. This is often on smartphones or tablets, but specialist headsets are increasingly used. Many of these vendors will be acquisition targets as larger companies aim to improve their 3D mapping and AR visualisation capabilities.

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Workshop XR

One of those acquisition targets was The Wild, a cloud-connected VR platform. In 2022, US-based software developer Autodesk acquired The Wild. The deal includes its namesake products: The Wild, and IrisVR, which will help develop Autodesk Workshop XR, a design review software product for architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) teams. In November 2023, Autodesk launched Workshop XR, a mixed reality platform, to help teams collaborate. The platform uses VR and AR technologies to create a virtual environment where AEC professionals can review and problem-solve throughout the design and development process.

Workshop XR addresses common issues with traditional design review processes, such as difficulties in visualising and understanding complex BIM models. The AR platform allows stakeholders to visualise and interact with 3D models in real time. Key capabilities include a virtual workspace, no-prep model loading, and full Autodesk Construction cloud data access. Workshop XR allows distributed teams to engage in virtual design reviews, which leads to more efficient project delivery and potentially lower costs. Workshop XR is available on Meta Quest 2, Meta Quest Pro, and Meta Quest 3 headsets.