In the not too distant future, engineers will be able to assess the potential damage of a bridge from the comfort of their office space. The technological advancement will come as a result of combining the technologies of full-scale Building Information Models (BIMs) and mixed-reality visualization techniques that are developed by the University of Cambridge, in collaboration with Trimble and Microsoft.
The new technologies will let engineers see fully textured infrastructure models while sitting at their desks wearing mixed-reality headsets and, if it is a new structure, to visit the site and view the structure through schedule-loaded BIMs to check on construction progress at a glance.
Images will be captured by workers at the bridge, by taking pictures of the structure with a digital single-lens reflect (DSLR) camera, which will then be uploaded to a cloud service. Engineers can view those images, which have been stitched together, while “walking” around it from every perspective using Microsoft’s HoloLens headset.
Not only does the process make it obviously cheaper and faster than having to manually visit the site and inspect the problem areas but it can actually offer a more precise analysis because it enables the engineer to zoom in and come to a more accurate conclusion.
“Bringing a bridge to life at full scale while still being aware of your surroundings is a major time saver for experienced inspectors,” said Dr Ioannis Brilakis, Laing O’Rourke lecturer of construction engineering at the University of Cambridge. Research behind the Bridge Inspector HoloLens app was conducted by PhD student Philipp Huethwohl.
Meanwhile, the Progress Monitoring HoloLens app, also created by the Cambridge team, allows engineering to bring four-dimensional design models to site and intelligently superimpose them on the real structure. The app allows construction inspectors both to visualise progress and automatically detect building elements that should have been built at the time of their visit but are missing.
“This is all about productivity and improving workflows,” said Dr Brilakis.