Argyle helps construction teams reduce rework by visualizing the BIM on site in aligned Augmented Reality (AR). What you missed or forgot to check is obvious in AR, and, with Argyle, helpful holograms load around you as you walk the site–showing you the building plan in its context.
Disillusionment in the market with VR and AR
When I went to a Disney arcade as a kid in the 90s, I just had to try the magic carpet ride Virtual Reality game. I held nothing short of Star Trek holodeck expectations in the long line waiting for my turn. My hopes died when I donned a heavy helmet displaying worse graphics than my Super Nintendo.
Fast forward some 20 years later and I’m on a construction site trying early augmented reality goggles. I’m wearing an AR-enabled hardhat only user tested by dudes with 18-inch necks. I saw that the hologram building elements were there, but they were bulky and blocking my vision of the rebar. Also, it was just one wall, not the whole model. When I turned my head and the holograms danced around the glasses, disorienting me on site. No. This would not do at all.
I’ve carried this grudge with me since childhood–when it comes to virtual and augmented reality if it’s not a full holodeck or intelligently located, transparent “touch” screens, I don’t want it.
It’s understandable that virtual and augmented reality devices have struggled to catch on like smartphones did. Consumers have sci-fi expectations of what the tech should be, and today most every AR experience falls short of something you’d want to use every day. Of course, almost no one has an urgent present need for a spatial computer. Unless you have a spatial job, that is. There is nothing more spatial than construction.
Maximizing the reality in Augmented Reality
You find yourself on an active construction site–stepping carefully the rebar of a pre-pour deck. Here, anything that distracts from your present task is unsafe. There is a necessity to know what you’re doing and looking at, without any obstructions; AR is no different.
One of the important themes we took from sci-fi was how they used their holographic screens, and how unobtrusive they were.
When we started building Argyle in 2019, we asked ourselves, “forget what the tech can do now–what would it do if we were constructing this building in an episode of Star Trek?”, “How much rework could be eliminated in construction if our data reliably existed around us on site?”, and “ What if communication was more visual and three-dimensional?”
Then we set to work building it, prototyping, and finally creating the beta that anyone with a model and an AR device can try today. And I’ll be honest, it wasn’t easy. And at first, there wasn’t much to look at or show to anyone. My tiny intrepid team took on the impossible challenge of spatial computing for the construction site for the love of it, for the promise of it, and for the inevitability of it.
Alignment to the jobsite was critical, and the old QR code and hardware setup wasn’t going to work–not only because it’s friction–but because it’s rigid to change on the constantly changing site. Argyle designed and patented two technologies for spatial alignment of digital datasets to the physical world. Next we had to get those datasets to render on an edge device.
If you’ve never had the experience of opening a large, coordinated model, let me tell you, you might want to bring a snack. And that’s opening it on a fast desktop, now try to get it to load in AR. Working with piecemeal bits of the model can give you a visualization experience here and there, but it falls far short of augmenting a construction site with in-context data. On site, we want the whole model. All the trades. The whole building.
Here are the principles guiding the Argyle AR application:
Argyle’s performance motto has been “Useful in 10 seconds or Less.” But if you’ve ever opened a Revit model, you know these are heavy. To achieve this performance on AR devices, Argyle created a new transfer format and parsing technology.
A persistent application stays set up. Ask yourself, “how many times can I start the AR application without having to specifically set up my space?” It should remember where it is.
Someday AR will be a true measurement tool, but for now consider it an assist–a visualization tool for gross error. Accuracy relates to what part of the model is loading where. Does the system confuse similar-looking parts?
Argyle’s fiercest competition is the way things have always been done. Why would your team bother with AR if it’s more friction than your tape and plans? The novelty wears off fast if it’s not actually efficient, so we’re striving to be as fast as a tape and plans. We succeed a lot of the time. We’re working to make it all of the time.
Adoption of AR in construction is still relatively early in the scheme of things. While software and hardware companies have greatly improved the experience of using headmounted AR on site, mobile AR is what is capturing most people’s attention.
Having experienced both headmounted and mobile, headmounted is here to stay. I have no doubt. It’s an entirely different experience to exist in an augmented world than it is to have a window to an augmented world. So, expect handheld AR to have the most reach and expect headmounted AR to give the most depth to critical team members — and expect Argyle to be the ones to provide it.