Microsoft HoloLens Use Cases in the Construction Industry

February 12, 2018

Microsoft’s AR headset HoloLens is leading the way in augmented reality hardware for the modern enterprise, including in the construction industry. Recently, there was an announcement for hard hat solutions with Microsoft HoloLens that will finally provide the critical protection on a construction site. This is an important step for AR adoption, as field workers cannot use the headset without safety compliance. Without this roadblock ahead, let us review all available Microsoft HoloLens use cases for the construction industry.

For each use case, we have provided a video to give you a sense of the many ways the device and the technology could work on a construction site.

1. Hands-Free Access to Blueprints

2. Remote support in the field

3. 3D model superimposed on a site

3.1. Architecture design review

3.2. Structural models visualization

3.3. MEP visualizations

3.4. Interior design review

3.5. Guided point layout

3.6. Step-by-step assembly instructions

3.7. Guided check-lists with navigation.

4. Measurements and 3D scanning

4.1. Tape measurements

4.2. 3D scans and reconstructions

4.3 Clash detection on-site

5. Employee Training

6. Inspection

7. Post-maintenance

8. Conclusion (with a summarizing table)

1.Hands-Free Access to Blueprints

Smartphones and tablets helped the construction industry make the first step into the Digital Era. Now, it is time to go further with the new augmented reality media.

Below is an example of moving a Revit model into a HoloLens working environment, and how it looks like on a construction site — without the hassle with paper and all the time and energy for printing.


2. Remote Support (Teleconferencing) in the Field

Here is Microsoft’s visionary presentation about collaboration on a construction site. You can spot an issue and connect with the Architecture & Design team to discuss the solution and proceed further.

Also, see this demo showcasing live remote AR support. A technician wears Microsoft HoloLens in the field and collaborates with a support specialist, who uses a tablet and shares the view with the headset. The specialist leaves annotations that are visible in real world space, and the technician can quickly respond to them. This example does not involve construction, but the principles are all the same for the construction process.


3. 3D Model Superimposed on a Site

Models overlay is the most significant Microsoft HoloLens usage case. Today most of AEC engineers, architects, and designers are dealing with spatial objects and 3D representations on 2D screens. On the other hand, overlaying the model over the real world with AR allows for grasping it easier.

3.1. Architecture Design Review

Before AR, there were 3D renders and the ability to walk and fly through a model in VR. Now, architecture models can appear in the real world — overlayed over an intended construction site and accessed with HoloLens.

Below is an example of building model visualization in a city block with AR, which allows an architecture team to assess the look, feel, and consistency of a new structure.

Holograms eliminate the need for wood and plastic models. In the next video, an architect puts a model into the space between existing buildings and reviews holograms of the entire block on a meeting room table.


3.2. Structural models visualization

AR also allows to access wall and metal constructions — in the office or on the construction site.

The technology makes it easier to view material compositions and beam placement in new structures, as well as those that require additional enforcements.

The next video shows rebars visualization on-site.

Process modeling for equipment movement and relocations are easier with AR, too. Will new machinery fit into the space, or should we move it down the hallway? Do we need to remove the additional wall to accommodate the size of equipment? With AR modeling and visualization, the team can see it in the real world space and make the right decision.

3.3. MEP visualizations

Ductworks and pipes could be visualized before assembly to overview the entire scope and check for collisions. Elements can be layered and reviewed by separate layers, each visualized in a different, distinct color.

AR is also useful in reviewing BIM models in the office, overlaying them on walls and ceilings:

3.4. Interior design review

Designers can work in HoloLens while making the selection of material and place layout. You can design right on the site, precisely matching the real model and the space. This helps to see the interplay of existing materials and the light on designed elements.

3.5. Guided point layout

Prefabrication MEP engineers can use HoloLens to perform point layout on-site and mark all places for screws, hinges, etc.

3.6. Step-by-step assembly instructions

See IKEA’s standout demo prototype that uses Hololens and Vuforia SDK to assemble a chair. As simple as it sounds, the execution of the process and user experience are impeccable. The assembly is clear and easy to perform.

In the same way, we can assemble bigger structures on-site without having to consult paper plans, which allows to make the process simpler, clearer, and more efficient.

3.7. Guided check-lists with navigation

As HoloLens continuously builds and maintains the 3D map of the environment, it is possible to provide premises orientation and navigation for new employees on a construction facility or site.

AR would guide them with superimposed arrows, markers, and an informational panel that precisely aligns with halls, doorways, and equipment which helps to provide explanations.

4. Measurements and 3D scanning

HoloLens is building a 3D map as a mesh internally, and apps can use it to understand the environment around.

For example, here is our office in Palo Alto.

4.1. Tape measurements

HoloLens organically replaces tape for measuring short-to-medium distances, and it is showing precision of up to 1/4 of an inch. Therefore, you can quickly make the necessary measurements of a site.

4.2. 3D Scans and reconstructions

HoloLens’s spatial mapping feature allows you to reconstruct a 3D model and recover the full plan.

See the video:

4.3. Clash detection on-site

Once you have a superimposed 3D model aligned in real space, you can see the clashes right away:


5. Employee Training

In construction, training is simpler when it is safe. AR headsets can be used for such unobtrusive and 100% safe training environment.

See an example of crane operator training.


6. Inspection

Augmented reality is also a practical means for marking issues with a gesture right where you see it. Here is how such integration into the real-world space works for Procore.

Another solid example is an SRI prototype for inspections:


7. Post-Maintenance

If as-built models are properly maintained, you can carry out all subsequent repairs and maintenance jobs with AR, as it allows to see through walls and ceilings.

Here is a demo where an as-built model was reconstructed from the scan of an existing building.


Conclusion

Gaining a broad support from the industry, Microsoft succeeds in moving HoloLens adoption to construction — to help it make the leap into the Digital Era and become more efficient. AR transforms a multitude of important construction processes in a practical way. To make use of  potential, the construction industry still needs to build more specialized applications, integrate different ecosystems, and make them interoperable for a quicker approval in the field. Nevertheless, Microsoft HoloLens usage in the construction will rise without a doubt, as it is the primary facilitator of the industry’s digital transformation.  

See the summary of all Microsoft HoloLens use cases broken down by the location of use.

Use CaseMain Location of Use
OfficeJob Site
1. Hands-Free Access to Blueprintsvv
2. Remote support (teleconferencing) on the fieldv
3. 3D model superimposed on the sitev
3.1 Architecture design reviewvv
3.2 Structural models visualizationvv
3.3 MEP visualizationsv
3.4 Interior design reviewv
3.5 Guided Point Layoutv
3.6 Step-by-step assembly instructionsv
3.7 Guided check-lists with navigationv
4. Measurements and 3D scanningv
4.1 Tape measurementsv
4.2 3D Scans and reconstructionsv
4.3 Clash detection on sitev
5. Workers Trainingvv
6. Inspectionv
7. Post-Built Building Maintenancev

Planning to improve your construction process productivity, but don’t know where to start? Consult with our AR expert now