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Augmented reality, mixing reality and virtual reality are evolving at high speeds in the construction world. Architects, engineers and contractors should immerse themselves in these new environments to take full advantage of the vast benefits, say panelists in FutureTech’s “Digital Visualization and Augmented Reality” session in San Francisco.

James Balding, CEO and founder of The ANT Group, says he’s a firm believer in immersive environments for architects. He recommends they “Experience it before designing it.” Balding presented a video with client experiences in a three-walled “cave” using Google glasses and augmented reality.

Wes Hardin, project manager for Burns & McDonnell, Kansas City, Mo., which provides management services for utilities and private industrial clients, showed an example of augmented virtual reality with a modified Google Earth image of transmission lines. “It’s all about creating context for the client,” he says.

Justin Schmidt, BIM manager at DPR Construction, Redwood City, Calif., says he uses “real world controls” to manipulate reality in his company’s digital format. Marker-based systems are accurate enough to provide QA/QC data, he says, while GPS technology is sufficient outdoors, but does not provide accurate information in an enclosed room model.

“Using mixed reality is more intuitive as a 3D model control,” says Schmidt, “plus it allows you to quickly react to changes in the field.”