News Ticker

Aecom to use Microsoft HoloLens in engineering and construction

Global engineering giant Aecom has unveiled a pilot project to deploy Microsoft HoloLens augmented reality headsets in engineering and construction projects on three continents.

The aim is to take 3D modelling to the next step, enabling project workers and clients to explore the construction projects on which they are working. Aecom describes it as a “mixed reality” project in which “technology supplements conventional working practices” to “improve communication, collaboration and visualisation”.

Aecom is building the project with Trimble, a company best know for its GPS products. It will be, claims Aecom, the first commercial implementation of HoloLens in the construction and engineering industries. One of the first projects with which it will be used is the Serpentine Galleries’ annual architecture programme in London.

This year the Serpentine Galleries’ programme includes four summer houses with complex, unconventional structures, and the new technology has aided in visualisation and design review, claims Aecom president Stephen Kadenacy.

“Exploring complex structures in a mixed-reality environment has huge potential to accelerate the engineering design process,” he said.

He continued: “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. We’re very excited to be working with Trimble at the cutting edge of mixed reality.”

Combined with Trimble’s software, Aecom designers and engineers can view a complex structure that they are working on 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. While tools such as Rhino, 3dsmax, Revit, Maya and even Sketchup can help designers generate 3D schemes of their work for both themselves and clients to explore, this is the first time that it has been taken to the next level with off-the-shelf virtual reality headsets.

Furthermore, being able to do this in a “shared experience” enables team members to physically point out potential difficulties or unforeseen conflicts in an evolving design, claims Trimble president Bryn Fosburgh. Participants can log observations and create group action-plans during the session, as well.

Aecom is deploying HoloLens devices in London, Hong Kong and Denver, with engineers and architects in these different continents able to share the same holographic models simultaneously, with their movements and interactions linked together via the internet, with Trimble providing the underlying connectivity technology.