Finding Practical Uses for Mixed-Reality in Construction
ENR 11/28/16 p. 20
R & D director at interiors contractor strives to adapt cutting-edge visualization technology for regular workers on the jobsite.
There are many figures in the tech world who are preaching the wonders of augmented reality, mixed reality and expensive headsets that can project virtual images into the real world. But Cody Nowak is looking for the realistic applications that, eventually, will aid the average worker on the construction site.
As the head of research and development for Los Angeles-area interiors contractor Martin Bros., Nowak has challenged his company and other midsize contractors to take full advantage of new technological developments. “One of the lowest-hanging fruit [in construction technology] is bridging the gap from the office to the construction site,” Nowak says. While most of the focus for mixed-reality applications in construction has been on design evaluations and QA-QC, Nowak has insisted that the real benefits will manifest themselves when the regular tradesperson or contractor is able to see the model on the jobsite.
Nowak ran a pilot project in which a Martin Bros. employee was able to perform basic assembly of framing for a bathroom pod using for the layout only a Microsoft HoloLens mixed-reality headset, which projected the 3D wire-frame model into his vision. This proof-of-concept showed a glimpse of how, in the future, mixed-reality could be more than just a design-review tool and may even become a standard aid for basic construction tasks.
“If we just had the model on the site, we’d realize we could build directly from that,” Nowak explains. “It could mitigate all sorts of issues from not understanding the documentation.”
With a background in crafting BIM deliverables for various trade contractors, Nowak now has been at Martin Bros. for two years. After years of helping builders understand virtual design and construction, he is finding that the divide between the 3D model and the construction site is smaller than ever.
While his HoloLens pilot project was a conceptual success, he is moving on to mixed-reality applications that may be closer to real-world deployment. Today, Nowak is working with the equipment manufacturer Hilti to bring the PS 1000 wall-penetrating radar system into mixed-reality visualizations, allowing construction workers to “see” through walls. “It’s a different direction for mixed reality, way beyond just layout. We’re changing the way you look at the site.”