AECOM to pioneer use of virtual reality headsets on construction projects

AECOM engineers reviewing structural detailing using the new headset technology.

Consultancy AECOM and global tech company Trimble are collaborating on the world’s first use of Microsoft HoloLens ‘mixed-reality’ technology for engineering and construction. AECOM has launched a pilot program with Trimble to apply the technology to projects on three continents. 

Through a lightweight headset, HoloLens technology adds holograms of 3D objects into a user’s view, allowing interaction with these virtual objects as if they were actually present. Trimble’s innovative mixed-reality solutions allow AECOM to feed 3D engineering models into the HoloLens world, including models of large or complex projects.

AECOM is deploying the headsets and Trimble technologies to real-world projects, including the Serpentine Galleries’ annual architecture program in London. The mixed-reality technology supplements conventional working practices and improves communication, collaboration and visualisation.

“Exploring complex structures in a mixed-reality environment has huge potential to accelerate the engineering design process,” said AECOM president Stephen M. Kadenacy. “With this technology we can gain greater clarity earlier in the design review process than with 2D drawings or 3D models on screen, and team members in different locations, each wearing a headset, can simultaneously explore the same holographic projections. We’re very excited to be working with Trimble at the cutting edge of mixed reality.”

With the Serpentine Galleries, AECOM and Trimble pioneered the application of HoloLens-enabled technology to the built environment. This year the Serpentine Galleries’ program includes four Summer Houses with complex, unconventional structures and the new technology has aided in visualisation and design review.

“As an early adopter of Microsoft HoloLens, AECOM is already demonstrating the value of mixed reality in the architecture, engineering and construction industry,” said Bryn Fosburgh, vice president at Trimble. “Aided by Trimble solutions and the HoloLens in a business setting, the company is learning first-hand how the technology can improve efficiency and enable effective collaboration throughout the design process.”

Using Trimble solutions, AECOM designers and engineers can now view a complex structure as if it were a 3D model placed on a table, or zoom in for a 1:1 view that simulates what it would be like to move through its structural framework. This shared experience allows team members to physically point out potential difficulties or unforeseen conflicts in an evolving design. The solutions pioneered by Trimble allow participants to log observations and create a group action plan during the session. 

AECOM is deploying HoloLens devices in London, Hong Kong and Denver. Engineers and architects in these different continents can share the same holographic models simultaneously, with their movements and interactions linked together via the internet connected by Trimble solutions.

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