Believe your eyes: the future of construction tech is not far away

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A while back, I blogged on what a cool piece of technology like Google’s Project Glass augmented reality glasses could transform the construciton jobsite of the future:

First, the very basis for the glasses, augmented reality, would allow guys on the job site to view blueprints by simply asking aloud for them. In a few seconds, the plans are directly in sight. And what’s better, both 3D models and blueprints could be projected into your vision, allowing you to see outlines and a finsihed product on top of the site’s current state.

Next, the glasses are equipped with GPS. In the first demonstrations we’ve seen of glass, this has been used to provide turn-by-turn directions and the ability to share your location with friends. But theoretically it could be used for reference while grading or paving. Rather than checking a monitor inside the cab, the operator would be able to direct the equipment along lines projected right into his field of vision.

So I couldn’t help but smile Thursday when James Benham painted a similar picture of the future of construction technology during the Associated General Contractors of America IT Forum Conference in Chicago.

Just after he announced the exciting new Construciton Open Software Alliance, which will seek to solidify a standard platform for software developers to develop construction software that does a better job of sharing data, Benham wondered aloud “what if we took a mobile-connected world using (the agcXML development standard) and delivered it down to a handset or did some fun stuff with a display?”

Then he showed a 3D animation, resembling the still above, from the perspective of an excavator operator. The excavator had a transparent display instead of a windshield and that display laid a 3D model over the jobsite landscape that could be intereacted with. Basically, the idea I had with Project Glass on a much larger, more deeply integrated scale.

He also showed video of a demonstration where paper plans with special markers allowed glasses the planner was wearing to render a 3D model over the plans on the table in real space. Even cooler, the planner was able to maniuplate the model with his hands to pan around see the insides of the design. The video below isn’t exactly like what Benham showed, but it gives you a pretty good idea of the concept.

[youtube cP6Edot0RM nolink]

What was most gratifying about Benham talk though was when he said these things aren’t just pipe dreams. Rather, they’re very likely to take place.