Construction has quietly been taking some giant steps into the future. Most recently, Microsoft announced that its mixed reality (MR) headset will be compatible with hard-hats beginning 2018.
MR headsets place clear digital screens in front of the user’s eyes, allowing the user to view the real world and virtual images at the same time. With advanced programs, MR headsets can even adjust the virtual images based on what is happening in reality. For example, a navigational arrow attempting to guide you to a GPS-selected location would adjust direction, depending on which way you turn. Or, if you wanted to temporarily keep tabs on your laptop power, a battery icon could appear whenever you look at the laptop, but disappear if you look away. Okay, but what does this have to do with construction??
Microsoft’s MR headset, called the HoloLens, has undergone safety testing and received certification as protective eyewear. So, starting in 2018, the HoloLens will be available as a hard-hat attachment for factory and construction workers, among others. Soon, laborers will be able to see virtual models of their project digitally overlayed onto a real empty lot to plan out exactly where a foundation should be laid. And technicians will be able to look at a complex set of piping and view real-time pressure readings or thermal/heat vision to immediately identify where invisible problems are hiding.
If that sounds like the future has arrived, well, maybe it has. Implementation will likely take some time, however. The technology is new, so there will be a trial-and-error period as companies try out a limited number of MR headset to analyze how they could be integrated into day-to-day workflow. And of course, many companies will simply wait and see which direction the industry leaders end up going. Being a follower isn’t necessarily a poor choice; the commercial version of the HoloLens will cost around $5,000 per unit, so it’s not a cheap experiment.
However, wearable technology is unmistakably going to come sooner rather than later. While there are limits to current products, like battery life and the durability required for construction work, the benefits are too great to ignore. Biometric products like Fitbit can monitor heart rate, body temperature, and location, while wearable visuals can scan 3D structures for faults or other safety risks. These features dramatically increase worker safety, which is ideal for construction employees and employers alike. Plus, augmented reality has already been proven to deliver highly effective construction site safety training. The undeniable benefits of MR innovation is why wearable tech is expected to grow by 24% from 2016 to 2023, exceeding a market-share of $12 billion.
What’s really great about MR technology is that, unlike autonomous machines that threaten to replace workers, wearable tools and attachments actually help humans retain their jobs. By keeping workers healthy, safe, and operating more efficiently than ever, technology like the HoloLens helps keep humans on the jobsite. Currently this tech mostly used “on the side-lines,” but it will be in the field soon, bringing the construction industry into the future!
What do you think? Let us know in the comments below – would you wear a high-tech hard-hat?? Also, you can check out some interesting videos on MR tech here: