Search Field Solutions & Services
Field Layout Insights     Apr 9, 24

3 Future Trends in Mixed Reality Construction Technologies

It would be an understatement to say the modern construction industry looks very different from where it was a decade ago — or even five years ago. Changes in labor market demographics, economic fluctuations and a steadily growing emphasis on construction sustainability and efficiency are all driving revolutionary changes in construction planning and project management technologies. 

Although mixed reality (MR) is still a fairly new technology, it's one that's poised to transform how construction companies approach design, stakeholder engagement and more. Keeping up with these changes can help your company stay competitive over the coming years.

What Is Mixed Reality?

MR is a type of extended reality (XR) technology that fuses the virtual and the real to create a highly immersive hybrid version of reality. It's made possible through a combination of the following technologies:

  • Photogrammetry: Digital cameras attached to headsets or mobile devices collect visual data about your job site to create a virtual map of all existing structures.
  • Advanced sensors: Sensor capabilities like Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) and Ultra-Wide Band (UWB) chips allow you to collect valuable job site data, such as existing conditions, in real time. 
  • Virtual reality (VR): VR is a fully immersive experience where users navigate a wholly virtual environment and interact with virtual objects.
  • Augmented reality (AR): AR augments the real world by adding digital elements to an interactive display, such as on a tablet or smartphone. Today, this technology is more accessible than ever — almost any camera-equipped device has AR capabilities.
  • Artificial intelligence (AI): In XR applications, AI processes incoming data from your job site and adapts the experience in real time to reflect any changes.

It can be easy to confuse VR, AR and MR due to similarities between the technologies. The essential difference between the three is that MR combines VR and AR by incorporating interactive digital elements (VR) into the real world (AR) in a uniquely immersive way. Users interact with both digital and real objects, though they still occupy a physical environment.

Existing Applications for Mixed Reality in Construction

As the technology has become more accessible, forward-thinking construction companies have found several compelling use cases for MR. Some of these applications include:

Existing Applications For Mixed Reality

  • Safety training: MR experiences are highly immersive and hands-free, which helps workers prepare for real-world site hazards more effectively than traditional training programs. Rather than training them on completely virtual job sites using VR training simulations, for example, the MR tech can add virtual hazards to your real job site, which helps employees get more accustomed to searching for risks in their everyday jobs.
  • Design visualization: Highly accurate 3D models help project teams save valuable time and money by streamlining decision-making processes and accelerating inspections. 
  • Quality control: Data from sensors on your job site can update MR models in real time, helping inspectors catch small errors early and streamlining the quality assurance process.
  • Maintenance and repairs: Maintenance technicians can use MR-equipped glasses or goggles to “see” into structures and more easily diagnose issues based on real-time inputs from connected sensors. This application is also useful for equipment maintenance routines.

3 Mixed Reality Trends for the Construction Industry

Since MR is a developing technology, we're likely to see some major changes over the coming years that create more applications and unlock more value. Here are the top three mixed reality trends construction companies should watch for 2024 and beyond.  

1. Transforming Design Visualization and Digital Twin Creation

The industry — and society in general — is experiencing a dramatic shift from 2D to 3D designs. Combining the immersive nature of MR technologies with advanced surveying and LiDAR sensors unlocks the ability to create accurate 3D BIM models of your designs in real time in the space you’re designing. This would also allow for easier updating of models to create a more accurate digital twin for the end user. 

A digital twin is a virtual replica of a project through construction and beyond into the building’s lifecycle.  Merging these replicas with the real world environment creates an interactive display that seamlessly integrates digital twins with BIM workflows and real-time site data, which helps stakeholders gain a more complete understanding of your project at every stage, from concept to reality. Imagine walking around the site and updating the location of work just by grabbing a digital element and dragging it to where the physical element got installed!

2. Virtual Mock Ups 

The industry has successfully used virtual mock ups to save time and costs for several years now, and MR technology can further enhance this process by making these prototypes more accurate and immersive. For example, because traditional construction mock ups are limited to only a room or two they can't provide customers and other stakeholders with a complete understanding of what the completed structure will look like in real life. 

MR technology, on the other hand, lets project stakeholders walk through and interact with a virtual life-size model of proposed building elements throughout the entire structure as it’s being built. Real-time data collection from sensors on your site and AI integrations can alter the MR environment, so stakeholders can understand how structures will respond to changing environmental conditions.

Plus, the ability to directly interact with the design of a virtual mock up provides a more engaging customer experience, which can boost your company's reputation and help you win more bids.

3. Enhancing Collaboration

The age of remote work and increasing international collaboration among construction teams requires a shared workspace where all stakeholders can communicate key project details in real time. That's why one of the most promising innovations in mixed reality tech is its potential to improve global project team collaboration centered around the project site itself. 

Through MR-enhanced video calls, project leaders can overlay real-time design changes onto the built environment, which helps clear up any misunderstandings between team members. When all team members have a complete view of the project design, it becomes easier to catch errors as construction progresses  — which saves everyone valuable time and money in correcting flaws later on. 

Although AR and VR could also work well for this application, they complicate the experience by requiring collaborators to hold additional screens or wear bulky tethered headsets. MR can work with just a pair of safety-enhanced goggles, which allows for convenient, hands-free operation. As MR advances, it is likely to become more compact even as its processing quality improves.

Use Mixed Reality in Construction

Embrace the Future With Mixed Reality Solutions From BuildingPoint SouthEast

Are you considering adding MR technologies to your project planning and QA workflows? The experts at BuildingPoint SouthEast are here to help you find the right solution.

As the exclusive Trimble dealer in our region, we're your one-stop shop for all your MR hardware and software needs. And we're committed to helping you get the most out of your investment — when you work with us, we'll demo the product, train your staff onsite and provide ongoing support.

Browse our site to shop all our mixed reality technology products, or contact us today to request a free quote.