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Reimagining the Design Process with Full-Size On-Site AR

Spatial design, whether it's for the interior of a factory or airplane, or for the exterior of a new automobile or building, calls for the knack of visualizing design ideas in 3D. Professional designers gradually hone their 3D visualization skills and follow a process to translate their ideas into 3D spaces. The traditional design process has been updated in recent years with some new tools, like CAD modeling and VR. Unfortunately, the process is often still messier than it needs to be. We now have the opportunity to clean up the design process by bringing AR into the design workflow.

As a building architect, I have led my team at Geopogo to demonstrate the power of full-size on-site AR to clean up the design and construction process. This new technology allows project stakeholders for the first time to literally experience the design on-site throughout the design development process. Unlike VR, AR can be experienced on a mobile device rather than with a headset. Additionally, AR has the advantage that it automatically integrates the existing exterior or interior site with the proposed design. VR requires a much larger 3D model to be constructed if all existing conditions are to be included to provide the necessary context.

The way that our AR models are built is simple. We start by taking a few minutes to import a BIM model such as an Autodesk Revit file into our software platform and convert it to a Unity-based Geopogo model. Then we use our iOS App to upload the Geopogo model to an iPhone or iPad (or headset if preferred). With the iPhone or iPad (or headset), the model can be set exactly on site for review and approval.

A striking recent example of how AR works to clean up the design process is the on-site AR model we implemented for one of the largest global tech companies. The company was set to begin interior construction of a large commissary facility in Silicon Valley. In spite of all of the drawings that had been carefully reviewed and approved by the company’s staff, the company wanted to be certain that the design would really work as intended.

When the staff were able to walk through the AR model of the proposed facility in full size with all of the equipment and casework, they discovered for the first time many essential changes that were needed for efficient operational functionality. The company was then able to make the design changes before construction began and proceed with confidence. The company’s project manager calculated savings of $250,000 since the company otherwise would have been forced, as the problems were discovered during construction, into mid-construction rework involving utility line revisions and the relocation of equipment and casework. On their next project, the company will use AR all the way through the design process to largely eliminate design revisions as well as construction rework.

Incredibly, this type of rework has been calculated by McKinsey as 9% of all construction costs, or approximately $1 Billion wasted every day in the US. It can largely be avoided simply by reviewing a full-scale on-site model before construction. Prior to AR, this had to be done with physical mockups which were expensive to construct and limited in scope, so it was typically not done at all.

What does this all mean for general manufacturing? For the spatial design inherent in aeronautic, factory, and nautical interiors, it means that there is now a compelling opportunity to present proposed designs clearly to clients, test them in full size as the design is developed, and eliminate a great deal of time-consuming design revisions and costly construction rework. The savings in time and money allows projects to be delivered faster at a lower price, with more profit. With the today’s pandemic-driven economic pressure, the time to start is now.

Dave Alpert, CEO

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