Innovation Highlight: Augmented Reality

December 12, 2019
Innovation Highlight: Augmented Reality

As the rail industry adjusts to a changing digital landscape and starts to take on more complex infrastructure schemes, contractors and clients alike are looking for new ways to improve project safety, efficiency and delivery.

Augmented reality can be used to better visualise designs, inform project phases and plans, and improve safety by facilitating off-track training.

What Is Augmented Reality?

Augmented reality [AR] is the process of using digital holograms to enhance physical space. Holograms are blended into the real world so you interact with them as you would with physical objects.

AR is not to be confused with virtual reality [VR] which fully immerses the user in a  virtual environment, so they are disconnected from their surroundings, rather than interacting with them.

Why is AR a good fit for construction?

  • Self-contained (no wires or connections)
  • Can be used in wearable technology
  • Allows annotations, screenshots and replay
  • Enhances user’s vision
  • Can be used with key stakeholders to share design and progress with them
  • Creates safer and more efficient training environments

Testing Design Functionality: The Mixed Reality Helmet

Dura Vermeer and Recreate teamed up to create the EBMR - Engineering Building Mixed Reality - helmet.

The helmet overlays a 3D holographic rendering of the construction design over the user’s view of the building site. Before a single brick has been laid, project managers can see exactly how it will look and function within the space.

Construction workers can walk around the site and see exactly where each element will go using satellite positioning data. Dura Vermeer have already been using the technology on site and report that it speeds up decision making and processes, improves accuracy of measurements and ultimately delivers a better quality project, by removing the guesswork from interpreting drawings.

This particular use for AR is becoming popular. HS1 is introducing headsets to create training environments for maintenance workers, so they no longer need to spend large amounts of time on track.

An interior designer using AR, Source iStock

Collaboration With Stakeholders: Smart Eyewear Technology

Boston commuter rail workers are using smart glasses to increase the efficiency of repairs. Keolis Commuter Services launched the glasses that allow field staff to transmit real-time images to technicians in the office. The aim is to facilitate faster communication and repairs through live video as the repairs are carried out.

The glasses also enable annotations to be added to the image in vision, screen shots and replays. KCS have noted the following benefits so far:

  • Drivers and other staff can make emergency repairs without waiting for a mechanic.
  • Trains don’t need to be transported for repair.
  • Experts can be consulted in real-time.
  • Workers learn more through visual experience.

Smart glasses are also being used by Network Rail High Speed in the UK, for remote support to engineers.

In conclusion, AR is a fascinating technology that has the potential to transform the way we perceive and interact with the world around us. While it is still in its early stages, the future looks promising, and we can expect to see more exciting developments in the coming years. It becomes mainstream, it will undoubtedly bring new opportunities and challenges, but it is up to us to embrace the technology and leverage it to its full potential.

Will Doyle


I am an experienced RICS chartered Quantity Surveyor​ with first-hand experience of how the consistent capture and analysis of data can transform global project delivery.

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