Mixed Reality for Construction: Applicability and Reality

Mixed reality, which can include AR and VR, can put contractors ahead in terms of marketing, pre-construction design, clash detection, scheduling and facilities management. And that’s just the beginning.
May 15, 2019

This is the sixth article in the Precision Construction series, which explores the application of the Internet of Things to digitally transform the construction industry, ultimately with the objective to improve labor productivity, reduce costs and enhance safety. The series began with Exploring Digital Transformation for Construction, followed by Simplifying Complex IoT Solutions, United Rentals Drives Efficiency & Excellence with IoT, United Rentals Helps Customers Optimize Equipment RentalRobotic Masonry Is Helping to Fill the Skilled Labor GapTaking Environmental Monitoring to a New Level and Digital Transformation – Enabling New Business Models for Construction. Articles generally follow a five-layer framework, described in Simplifying Complex IoT Solutions, that makes it easier to understand digital transformation solutions. To learn more about the various technologies described in this series, visit

One technology available to the digital contractor for mapping what’s happening in the physical world with the 3D models is mixed reality. Mixed reality often includes both augmented reality and virtual reality.

Figure 1: Trimble DAQRI Smart Helmet

Preconstruction Phase

During the preconstruction design phase, mixed reality can be used for a number of tasks, such as:

  • conducting design iterations;
  • communicating designs to owners;
  • visualizing the impact of design changes;
  • discovering design and coordination clashes; and
  • mocking up virtual interior designs.


Mixed reality can also be used to create marketing material, such as a virtual showroom. Imagine being able to show a potential client what the building will look like. For example, the client, wearing mixed-reality glasses, can see the physical neighborhood with the building or can take a virtual “walk” through of an apartment before it it is even completed.

Construction Phase

Figure 2: Mixed-reality glasses used in facilities management

During the construction phase, mixed reality has a number of potential uses, such as:

  • Quality control and clash detection to Identify early on if something is installed improperly.
  • Scheduling and collaboration. A wearer can project the 4D model in space and see if a team is behind schedule because something that is supposed to be there, isn’t.
  • Subcontractor material layout. Instead of subcontractors marking where their stuff goes, they use mixed-reality glasses that tells them where their stuff goes. HITT Contracting anticipates this could save them 25% of schedule time.
  • Build what the worker sees through the AR glasses. In this case, the specific directions of what to build are presented on the AR glasses. The implication is training changes as the glasses can guide teams through the sequences required to do the job.

Facilities Management

Mixed reality can also be used in facilities management. It’s well known that the cost of constructing a building is a fraction of the total cost of maintaining a building over its lifetime.

Figure 3: Augmented reality used on a tablet

If the contractor has kept the BIM model updated throughout the construction process, this model can be provided to the owner at the completion of the project. Then if redesigns are requested, the owner can use the mixed-reality glasses, for instance, to see through walls and ceilings to know where structural elements are located.

Mixed reality can also connect to IoT devices in the building, such as networked water towers and boilers. The wearer of the mixed-reality glasses can look into a room and the different connected machines can show their current state. This allows issues to be recognized simply by looking at the machine.

Augmented Reality on tablets

Actually, mixed-reality glasses are not required to visually see the 3D design overlaid with the physical world. Although still in early development, there are a number of apps available now that use the mobile device’s camera to overlay an interactive BIM model. Using a mobile device might also work better when outdoors, as today’s mixed-reality glasses don’t do as well in bright light.

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