San Jose, CA-based Trimble and Los Angeles-based AECOM announced this week that they are collaborating on the "world’s first use" of Microsoft HoloLens “mixed-reality” technology for the engineering and construction industry. AECOM says it 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 present. Trimble’s innovative mixed-reality show allows AECOM to feed 3D engineering models into the HoloLens world, including models of large or complex projects.

AECOM is deploying HoloLens devices and Trimble technologies to real-world projects, including the Serpentine Galleries’ annual architecture program in London. AECOM says the mixed-reality technology "improves communication, collaboration and visualization," while helping to supplement conventional working practices.

“Exploring complex structures in a mixed-reality environment has huge potential to accelerate the engineering design process,” said AECOM President Stephen M. Kadenacy in a recent news release. “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."

AECOM says that on the Serpentine Galleries, the technology has helped visualization and design review on four Summer Houses with complex, unconventional structures.

Bryn Fosburgh, vice president at Trimble, said in a recent news release that, aided by Trimble solutions and the HoloLens in a business setting, AECOM is learning "first-hand how the technology can improve efficiency and enable effective collaboration throughout the design process.”

With Trimble solutions, AECOM designers and engineers can 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. Trimble’s solutions allow participants to log observations and create a group action plan during the session.

Trimble began working with Microsoft last year to develop a new generation of tools, integrated with the HoloLens holographic platform on Windows 10. The company demonstrated a proof of concept at last year's Microsoft Build Developer Conference in San Francisco.

During the conference, Microsoft demonstrated how the integration of HoloLens with Trimble's SketchUp 3D modeling software and the Trimble Connect collaboration platform could improve design and construction processes.

Using HoloLens, architects were able to experience their SketchUp models as holograms placed in the real world—enabling them to quickly analyze various "what if" design scenarios in the context of the physical environment. The demonstration also illustrated how using Trimble Connect with HoloLens holographic technology enables remote teams to effectively review and collaborate in order to resolve constructability issues in real time.

As part of Trimble’s Mixed-Reality Pilot Program, 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.