5 Great Applications of AR/VR/MR in the AEC Industry

The use of AR/VR/MR technology in the AEC (architectural, engineering, and construction) industry is gaining popularity rapidly. For years designers have relied on CAD, creating wireframes for 3D buildings, that are viewed on a 2D screen – and still continue to do so. But this isn’t the case anymore. Ever since AR/VR/MR technology was introduced, it has been a game-changer for the AEC industry. 

Most of us would agree that the AEC industry was lagging behind the entertainment industry by at least a year in adopting AR/VR/MR technology. It was partly because of the continuous innovation of these tools that impeded the early adoption of this technology for companies that are/were on a budget. 

Today thanks to better performing and cheaper tools that are more accessible than before, we can see AEC companies relying more on AR/VR/MR technology to develop new and innovative projects for the future. Architects are being benefited from AR/VR technology immensely, as it allows them to showcase their projects and presentations to clients before they are built. It is also considered the future of construction because this tech allows representing what we envision more immersively – clients or stakeholders are now being able to walk around, view, and interact with an entire virtual building in a 1:1 scale through their own eyes.

There are several companies that are already working on or using a wide variety of AR/VR/MR solutions in this sector. We at Auleek have been closely following some of these companies and have made a list of 5 areas that we feel have made direct and positive impacts in the AEC industry by adopting AR/VR/MR technology. 

 

1. Transforming the Real Estate Sector using AR/VR Technology

AR/VR technology has gained popularity because it not only helps to increase the efficiency of managing physical spaces but also allows the buyers to view properties from anywhere. There are many advantages in using this technology in this sector, such as – remote property viewing with virtual tours, marketing properties with more efficiency, accessibility via web and mobile applications, and covering multiple stages of sales, buying, and interior decorating processes. 

Stores and businesses are slowly reopening across the country as well as all around the world, but it will still take some time for things to go back to their normal state as the customers are still not ready to revert back to their pre-pandemic routines. Seeing that the social distancing culture isn’t going away any time soon, real estate businesses are now heavily relying on AR/VR technology.  Curate by Sotheby’s International Realty®, is the first real estate brand to launch a virtual staging MR app that enables their customers to view beautiful virtual staging designs featuring entire product sets before buying it. This app completely transformed the home buying and selling experience for both sales associates and customers alike. 

Curate helps new homeowners design and purchase furnishing for their new home.

Another great example of AR-assisted real estate marketing would be this nice little app called Realtor.com that allows a potential buyer to learn essential information of a particular building or space, i.e. price, size by square feet, etc. by simply pointing their smartphone at them (building/space). This not only streamlines the convenience of the home-search process but also boosts their confidence in their choice of residence before making the purchase.   

 

2. Walking Through Buildings Before They Are Built

Companies like InsiteVR, IrisVR, and The Wild who specialize in making VR solutions, have enabled engineers and designers to create solutions that allow any user to collaborate, modify and experience spaces in real-time. They can also share these experiences with others. Some key benefits of adopting AR/VR technology in the industrial design sector are:

  • Saving time and cost
  • Minimizing rounds of revisions
  • Easily replicating real-world scenarios
  • Engaging in more effective collaboration
  • Gaining a competitive edge through immersive marketing experiences

One of the world’s largest architectural design firms, Gensler is currently using 3D programs to visualize their designs. Their new insight says that in addition to 3D models, the clients are now noticed to prefer VR  solutions that they can easily share with a team member or stakeholders. Gensler also uses popular game engines like Unity and Unreal for high-quality renderings, 3D modelling, and animation. This has helped visualize their designs quickly and efficiently to a very high standard of quality. 

VR modelling of Gensler’s L.A. offices

 

3. VR  Safety Training in Engineering & Construction Sectors

VR safety simulation training is gaining a lot of attention in the engineering and construction sector. For example, workers who are exposed to hazardous environments or deal with high-risk tasks such as crane operations, are being trained using realistic simulations, without actually exposing them to danger.

Image source Redpoint Positioning

Redpoint Positioning, is marking hazardous areas or safety zones by integrating real-time worker locations with BIM. Safety zones trigger wearable warnings once they are activated, providing location warning alerts in the form of alarms or flashing lights. These triggers are integrated into specially designed safety vests for the workers.

Leading global industrial gases and engineering company Linde is using VR training simulations on unloading hazardous liquid gases in controlled virtual environments for heavy-vehicle operator’s safety. This method allows the operators to be familiarised with their work even before a plant is built. This also prepared them for incidents that may occur in future. This would otherwise be impossible to recreate in a read-world scenario without incurring significant risk. 

 

Linde’s VR Training Simulation

 

4. IKEA Place

We have seen mixed reality or MR technology being used largely in the gaming and entertainment industry so far, however, businesses today –  especially in interior design –  are also implementing it to drive sales. One great example of it is Swedish retail giant IKEA’s AR app “IKEA Place” allows the customer to try many different products of various styles, colors, etc. in real-life settings – all with just a swipe of their fingers.

Through the use of this app,  IKEA was able to test out major purchases, cut down on returns, and increase customer satisfaction.

 

This app features Apple’s ARkit technology – all the products in this app are in 3D and can automatically scale the products based on room dimensions with almost 100% accuracy. Apart from digital placement, this app also allows the customer to capture images and videos and share them with friends and family.

 

5. Hatil® Virtual Store

Renowned local furniture store Hatil® – and one of our clients have implemented VR technology and revolutionized furniture retail in Bangladesh. Hatil® was facing a challenge with the increasing rent costs of retail spaces. Moreover, with an inventory close to 1000 including varieties in fabric and accessories, Hatil® was not being able to display their full range of furniture in the city centres – where most of their sales were happening. 

 

Caption: Virtual Store setup in one of Hatil® showrooms

As a solution, Auleek designed and developed a Virtual Store for Hatil® using Unity. Hatil® started setting up large screens inside their stores. On these screens, customers can browse through Hatil®’s entire range of furniture with all its variations in fully interactive 3D and virtual reality. In this Virtual Store, customers are able to change the fabric and material combination of furniture. They can also browse through the full collection of Hatil® in highly detailed 3D.

 

The Hatil® Virtual Store is currently running at 10+ stores in Bangladesh and India. 50% of monthly sales occur in some of these stores as a result of implementing this system. Implementing this VR technology not only helped Hatil® to save costs on their retail spaces but also provided the customers with a wider range of options, helping them make a more informed decision. With the success of the first 10 implementations. Hatil® is now preparing to scale up. The objective is to have 100 of these implementations in place by the end of 2021. 

In conclusion, we would like to say that this is only just the beginning of the AR/VR/MR technologies in the AEC industry. Soon they will be leading revolutions for businesses in the coming years. The consumers’ growing interested and demand for this technology will definitely also benefit the engineering and construction sector itself. There are opportunities for cross-industry collaboration that can easily result in new innovations in this industry and many others like it. 

The implementations we have mentioned here are not the only ones in this industry, these are just some of the best in our books. If you know about other AR/VR/MR technologies that are currently being implemented in the AEC industry, feel free to share them with us in the comments section. We would love to hear from you.