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Augmented reality and virtual reality in FM

The FM sector is looking at leveraging Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality systems to address the growing demand for modern tools and solutions

Nahla Nana is a strategic consultant with DREI of the Dubai Land Department.
Nahla Nana is a strategic consultant with DREI of the Dubai Land Department.

One of the numerous challenges facing many facilities management (FM) companies today is maintaining hidden and hard-to-access system components such as pipes, ducts, conduits, structural supports, inside walls, ceilings, floors and underground structures. More often than not, facilities managers have to make do with two-dimensional construction drawings which can be very difficult to translate into real, three-dimensional locations within actual facilities.

The need for modern tools and solutions to bridge this rendering gap in the industry is mounting. In response, the sector is looking at leveraging Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) systems to address growing demand.

AR is an advanced innovation that acts like X-ray glasses. In the FM industry, the technology can be used to provide an image of hidden walls, ceilings, and floors as well as the locations of pipes, conduits and ducts. The combination of this image with computerised data enables excellent management of structures.

Facilities managers, for example, can easily look for the source of leaks through the aid of AR technology.

Running on a variety of devices such as computers, tablets, phones, AR aids the FM team in pinpointing the exact source of the issue. Outside of facilities, AR could show the location of underground assets.

Although it is still in its infancy, AR is exponentially developing and can assist facilities managers in maintaining a building’s life cycle.

VR, on the other hand, is another prominent global technology that works by allowing individuals to step into a computer-generated artificial 3D world.

Under this pseudo-reality, individuals can grasp virtual objects and enjoy various experiences that are otherwise impossible in the real world.

One of the most important roles of the still rapidly evolving technology is to visualise various objects difficult to understand through intuitive experiences.

When the virtual 3D model is loaded onto the VR engine, or a powerful graphics computer, the user becomes an input device. The user’s motion and position of head, hand and body are effectively tracked, enabling navigational control throughout the virtual world.

The VR system then outputs real-time visual feedback to the VR user through various visual displays. Some systems also allow sound and touch feedback.

Space management using 3D modeling and communication networks is gaining a more prominent role in Facilities Management Information Systems (FMIS).

Such a technology helps lessen costs, tracks assets by geographic location, enhances maintenance planning using spatial analysis functionality, assesses facility conditions and critical failures, and substantially improves the performance of building systems.

Using VR is an innovative, efficient method to integrate and visualise information for large-scale FMIS.

The future possibilities of AR and VR are limitless. As these technologies continue to advance beyond one’s imagination, computing and display hardware and modeling and rendering software will continue to improve and make these simulation tools faster and easier to use.

With their many benefits, both AR and VR systems can bring the art of managing a facility to the next level.

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Construction Week - Issue 751
Oct 13, 2019