Get Started with Augmented and Virtual Reality with these 5 Tools

By 2020, the market for virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) is estimated to hit a combined $120 billion. With that much potential growth and movement from industry players like Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Samsung, what are the implications of VR and AR for the AEC industry? Here, I’m sharing 5 tools that can benefit the AEC industry and projects specifically.

Quick Definitions: Here are my quick definitions of VR, AR, and other related technologies.

Virtual Reality is all about viewing or experiencing a virtual environment; examples include Samsung GearVR and Microsoft Hololens. Augmented Reality, on the other hand, is overlaying virtual information onto a view of the real world; examples include the popular Pokemon Go game or Autodesk InfraWorks 360.

Another interesting concept is Reality Computing, also known as Generative Design. With Reality Computing, the computer runs hundreds or millions of design and engineering scenarios to find the most optimal design option. Practical application of Generative Design is starting to gain steam: a Brooklyn-based designer recently used Generative Design to create an optimized bike stem.

Finally, there’s Reality Capture, which is simply when you capture the real world around you using a camera or scanner.

DotProduct Handheld 3D Imaging

With the slogan “We make tablets see the world in 3D”, DotProduct offers a handheld self-contained 3D scanner that provides instant data capture and review. All processing is done on the tablet with no extra laptop required, and the data can be exported to all major formats, which includes compatibility with Leica or Autodesk software. The DotProduct is a great example of a high-powered Reality Capture tool that comes in a small package. Click the image below to see sample 3D models.

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Leica Pegasus: Backpack

The Leica Pegasus: Backpack is an award-winning unique wearable. As the name indicates, all of the reality capturing cameras and Lidar profilers are contained within a carbon fiber chassis that the user wears. Outdoor areas or underground infrastructures are no longer off-limits: the Backpack is position agnostic and offers both indoor and outdoor mapping. By combining both a full 360 spherical view and Lidar together, users won’t forget an object or need to return to a project site.

Leica Pegasus Backpack

Leica CloudWorx and Leica JetStream

Leica Cloudworx and Leica Jetstream both offer users the ability to work with point cloud data. With Leica CloudWorx, users can work with the point cloud data directly inside their chosen CAD systems, which means users have both their native CAD tools and the specialized point cloud commands at their disposal. Leica Jetstream, on the other hand, is an alternative for teams whose systems are bogged down by huge point cloud data sets. Jetstream provides a centralized project environment that helps to shorten the learning curve for CAD drafting teams.

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DAQRI Smart Helmet

The DAQRI Smart Helmet is a great AR tool with amazing applications for construction teams, and currently being tested in the field with several industry leaders. The DAQRI’s Intellitrak computer vision and navigation technology delivers contextually-relevant data to the user, further connecting the user to their work environment. So far, tested applications of the Smart Helmet include thermal vision which can identify unsafe working conditions, data visualization to provide distribution information outside of the control room, and step-by-step 4D work instructions to increase job efficiency.

3D Robotics

3D Robotics has partnered with Autodesk ReCap to offer a drone package that can be operated by anyone. Simply circle what you want to scan on a Google Map and the drone generates the optimal scanning path to give Autodesk ReCap what it needs to create the best model. This model can be passed directly from the drone to Autodesk ReCap, an Autodesk A360 account, or even just your Dropbox.

What other AR or VR tools are you currently leveraging? Share your thoughts and questions in the comments!

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