Augmented reality as a tool for construction
"Augmented-reality-assisted timber drilling with smart retrofitted tools," by Andrea Settimi, Julien Gamerro and Yves Weinand, was published in the scientific journal Automation in Construction, officially marking the presence of a new line of research at IBOIS, digital fabrication in augmented reality (AR).
This new research is focused on studying an AR-based manufacturing methodology for timber drilling. It also consisted in the implementation of an inside-out tracking system in order to determine optimal upgrades for existing tools. Additionally, a novel augmented interface following computed feedback for drilling operations was developed. In this system, manual operations can be tracked, evaluated, and certified.
AR technology is a rapidly developing technological domain. New resources and tools are being developed, and improved industrial head-mounted displays (HMDs), such as Hololens2, which include robust computational features, are now commercially available. Time-of-flight sensors are being integrated into mainstream smartphones, rendering AR stable and accessible to both consumers and developers.
While millimetric tool tracking precision has been achieved, it requires complex and expensive set-ups, which would pose the same problems in regards to means as full robotic automation. Additionally, the unpredictable environments of construction sites represent a big challenge in ease of deployment. A low-cost, highly efficient AR system to guide workers could cut down construction costs, diminish error margins, and prove a valuable tool for small-to-mid size businesses, including in developing countries. With such implementations, workers could perform complex drilling angle operations by following computer-processed feedback instead of physical guides or holographic templates, which would replace execution shop drawings, hand markings, and physical jigs, allowing for a democratization of construction methods. A comparative study among populations of users with various skill levels could provide a comprehensive view of the capacity of AR applications to bridge knowledge gaps in woodworking tasks.
This new line of research would ideally be complementary to factory-based robotic prefabrication. Site-based woodworking tasks (e.g., renovation of buildings or in situ adjustments) could benefit from agile and digitally enhanced fabrication systems that can be used in unstructured environments. Furthermore, independent participants in collective projects involving timber construction could gain the necessary expertise to integrate design and construction. With the implementation of the identified improvements, this hybrid fabrication format could be integrated into complementary digital manufacturing models for timber. This would enhance automated workflow flexibility and provide an opportunity for digitisation to small companies with low, entry-level technology by optimizing their existing human workforce.