The Reality of Construction: AR vs. VR

By Chris Greene, Assistant Vice President, Data & Analytics – Construction Services Group at Aon

Chris Greene, AVP of Data & Analytics – Construction Services Group at Aon
Chris Greene, AVP of Data & Analytics – Construction Services Group at Aon

If you aren’t already on the construction innovation band wagon, it’s time to hop on or get left in the dust. The built world is finally on a path of innovation and technological change is ubiquitous, alongside the likes of other industries, even the tech giants. It’s time for construction to catch up so we can harness the power of smart construction and do it all with less risk while producing superior assets.

I’ve been running Aon’s Technology Assessment Panel (TAP) now for the past 5+ years. Aon’s Global Construction & Infrastructure Team established the TAP to assess technology firms on their ability to reduce risk for our clients in construction and asset management. Our safety and loss prevention professionals are not only part of this team, but they work very closely with this panel to ensure they remain on the cutting edge of technologies available within the market to manage all risks our clients face.

Though the world of construction technology is quite expansive, one of the areas relate to how we now have the capability to simulate construction in a safe environment. We build in the physical reality, with various objects, risks and inefficiencies. The new world of simulated reality sparks a new and smarter way to build. Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) are both synonymous with the concept of simulated construction sites. Both provide their own unique innovations and benefits.

We build assets in the physical reality, we normally get one chance to do it right and when things go wrong, we don’t have the ability to start over again. At Aon we have the largest repository of construction and infrastructure failure or claims data. Our experts can advise on what can go wrong and help come up with solutions to fix those problems. With simulated reality such as AR and VR, you are now able to train, fit-out, mock up and visualize the design of the asset in a safe and forgiving environment. Not only does it help designers and general contractors, but even owners can take advantage of lasting maintenance optimization and fewer defects down the line. Let the problems arise in a simulated reality so you can just hit the rewind button and fix the issues before they turn into costly mistakes in the physical reality. The very relevant phrase, measure twice, cut once, can now transfer to, simulate as many times as you want and build once, the right way, with confidence.

Virtual Reality
VR technology isn’t something that is new or groundbreaking at all, however, the way it is now being used is quite innovative. Many technology companies are offering full offsite VR training for heavy machinery, processes and operations. You can sit in an offsite facility, hop into a VR crane simulator and go about construction as if you were physically on site. Systems like these are reducing operator training costs and what could be costly human errors. You can now put on a headset and tour a virtual building inside and out, all while deciding what needs to be changed and which design works best. You are in the driver’s seat with VR and can experiment in ways that were never possible before, all from the comfort of the office or even from home – a great remote solution in the current Covid-19 landscape.

Augmented Reality
AR adds in a whole other dimension and combines the physical reality with the virtual reality. You can now virtually model, conceptualize and simulate the asset all while using the physical reality as your live backdrop, and in real time. Imagine looking at a construction site with about half of the asset built – put on your AR glasses or hold up your phone and you now have the capability of seeing how the as-built asset matches up to the completed design. Not only can you match up and see how things are progressing, but you can compare that to the schedule, check for tolerances, create markups and make virtual changes live and on the go. Essentially you have a digital twin of the asset that will always have the details of your building in a virtual environment.

From design, to construction to ownership, AR and VR are changing the construction landscape. Better design, reduction in risk, defects, cost and schedule delays, as well as always having a digital twin blueprint of the asset are some of the many reasons why builders are turning to AR and VR. If you want to learn more about some of the best technology partners in the AR and VR space, you can speak with Aon’s Construction Services Group.

As you go down your construction journey, remember that there is no finish line when it comes to innovation, just steps forward in the right direction. Keep innovating, build smarter and never stop learning.