Augmented reality may be floundering in Gartner’s ‘trough of disillusionment’, but its potential to deliver better, more sustainable buildings will see the technology flourish, says BVN project architect Rana Abboud.

Gartner’s Hype Cycle – which drills down into the five key phases of a technology’s lifecycle, has AR at a precarious point. Interest has waned as experiments and implementations have failed to deliver, and investment will only continue if providers improve their products to the satisfaction of early adopters, Gartner warns.

But while AR is currently “very frustrating to use,” Abboud says it is in the earliest stage of application.

“In our industry, AR is mainly used in the design stage, for instance to showcase high-end properties, and it is a good tool for walk-arounds. But you don’t see a lot of applications on construction sites. The technology isn’t there yet.”

Abboud, who will be speaking at Green Cities in the ‘Periscope for an urban landscape session’ on 7 March, says AR is a much more exciting technology than its cousin, virtual reality or VR.

VR is an artificial simulation of an environment that immerses a user in the virtual world. “With VR, you don’t see the real world around you,” Abboud explains.

In comparison, AR layers computer-generated enhancements over the real world. “Pokémon Go is a light demonstration of what AR can do –its positioning of virtual Pokémon does not need to be accurate. But with industrial applications, AR  can very deliberately geo-locate data on a construction site, tag tasks, cross-reference plans – and that’s exciting.”

“Digicapital has said AR will eclipse VR very quickly because the applications are broader and there are a loads of industries that stand to benefit.”

Consider the potential.

“Usually, someone checking the foundations of a development will need to cross-reference this with 2D plans. Instead, that person could use a head-mounted display to see exactly where everything will go on site. The entire team can interact with this data, which really speeds up the planning and construction process.”

The geolocation potential of the technology is just as powerful.

“Imagine being able to see things that are invisible – such as boundaries, setbacks and height limits – to show people the detail they wouldn’t otherwise see. Currently, when you’re working on large, complex projects, needing to refer to back to plans constantly is time-consuming. But plonking the information in the location and space makes the whole understanding of the construction phase more intuitive. It’s like seeing it in the real world.”

And the benefits for task support are just as far-reaching.

“Just say you need to show a particular consultant a high-tech piece of equipment so they can provide advice on how it should be wired in – but they happen to be a specialist oversees. It’s very difficult to relay 3D physical tasks over the phone. But having someone offsite mark up the exact location and space for where something may fit – all from the other side of the world – can save time and money.”

It’s about giving people ways of looking at information that makes their work faster and easier, Abboud says. And this efficiency can have long-term sustainability benefits.

“At the heart of sustainability is saving on resources – whether that’s time, people or energy,” Abboud says.

“Anything that can streamline the construction process, and make it more efficient, is in itself going to make our industry more sustainable.”

Rana Abboud will be speaking at Green Cities 2017 from 6-8 March in Sydney. Tickets are still available online: