Emerging technologies—wearables, AR (augmented reality), VR (virtual reality), AI (artificial intelligence), machine learning, digital twin, and more—continue to proliferate the construction industry. Companies need to be aware of what technologies are coming—and which are a good fit for the jobsite.

Perhaps one of the best ways is to look at technologies already in use on other jobsites. One recent example of wearables at work comes out of China. State Grid, the country’s utility, is using hands-free computers for its line workers and electrical engineers. This is critical because insulated gloves cannot operate touchscreens.

State Grid completed a comprehensive pilot in Shanghai, with the goal of providing realtime remote assistance safely to workers for live-line maintenance without the use of workers’ hands. The wearable—RealWear HMT-1—has a high-resolution video camera that the worker operates by voice, even in extremely loud environments due to its noise-cancelling technology.

The work procedure is a three-person operation, requiring two workers in the bucket of the crane. The second worker is holding tightly onto an insulated rope tied to the first worker working with his or her gloved hands, and the third worker on the ground in a special insulated cabin is watching the procedure on a mobile device. A fourth worker can also view remotely through a laptop as the eyes of the first worker.

While this is one example, others continue to come to market with new solutions designed to provide the data needed on construction projects. AR and VR are a way to do that.

According to ResearchandMarkets, the VR market is expected to grow 33.47% between 2018 and 2024, with more fully immersive technology that enables users to feel the virtual environment in a realistic way. Head-mounted displays or virtual reality goggles offer this fully immersive environment.

While VR devices have been available for several years, content creation has witnessed significant growth recently, offering new opportunities in vertical industries.

Specifically for construction, two companies recently began working together to design custom workstations for enterprise-level virtual reality projects. Puget Systems provides custom benchmarks and tests designed to ensure hardware performance for customers running IrisVR Prospect. The result is immersive design review and collaboration.

With new, emerging technologies, construction companies have an opportunity to heighten safety and productivity at the jobsite—it is a matter of identifying how to best use the technology.

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