Mixed Reality Mixing it up for the Construction Industry

Mixed Reality Mixing it up for the Construction Industry

01st March 2017

Here at Safety Fabrications we like to keep up to date with everything that’s happening within the construction industry, both here in the UK and in the wider world.  As such, we keep an eye on all the latest news so that we can make sure our readers are up to date with all the latest happenings.  Today, we have a really exciting story for you about digital technology, a subject that we’ve introduced to our readers in the past. 

Microsoft, the giant multinational technology and software company, plans to make mixed reality go mainstream in 2017 by partnering with other technology companies in order to market the mixed reality capabilities of its HoloLens at affordable prices and speed up adoption within business and industry.  HoloLens is basically a pair of mixed reality smartglasses and runs the Windows Holographic platform under the Windows 10 operating system (OS).  The HoloLens was originally developed on the back of Kinect, the add-on for the Xbox that was first introduced in 2010.

Unlike the virtual reality (VR) headsets already on the market such as the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, which totally immerse the user in a virtual world, the HoloLens blends the real and the virtual world in a type of augmented reality.  At present, the device is being targeted at enterprise customers, rather than consumers.  One of the business customers is elevator maker, Thyssenkrupp who recently gave a demonstration in London to show how their engineers used the HoloLens to help them repair elevators.  This involved using Skype on the HoloLens to speak to an office-based expert who is able to see what the engineer wearing the HoloLens can see.  The office-based person can draw over the “real world” and point to a specific part that the engineer needs to inspect or even circle key components that need changing.

According to HoloLens’ head of strategy, Ben Reed, focussing on commercial customers is “about building an ecosystem so if and when we are focusing on the consumer market there will be an exosystem of experiences to support that”.  With 80 third party developer experiences in the HoloLens app store already, Microsoft has opened up Windows Holographic to be used by other headset makers in order to expand its reach. 

Microsoft is currently working with the Construction Information Technology Lab at Cambridge University and Trimble, a leading provider of location based solutions, to bring the benefits of mixed reality to the construction industry.  Initial trials involve an Automated Progress Monitoring function to modernise the time-consuming process of inspecting remote structures on a regular basis.  HoloLens enables a local team to send real time, high res images to inspection engineers who then automatically map them onto 3D models of a structure (a bridge, for instance).  The engineers can them review the integrity of the structure in mixed reality and make recommendations for repair work or preventative measures to be carried out. 

While the construction industry came late to the table in adopting digital technology, the sector is currently undergoing a rapid transformation as it rushes to catch up and make the most of this cool new technology.  It’s hoped that the use of mixed reality will help to make working in construction much safer in the future, enhancing production and helping to build the infrastructure that a busy society needs.