Home' Position : Position 89 Jun-Jul 2017 Contents in any location around the city centre, and
see all the destroyed buildings in context.
These systems are predicated on using
the GNSS positioning found on ordinary
mobile devices to deliver augmented reality.
A sophisticated version of this idea is to
use the phone's camera. Much less cool
than Google Glass, but far more useful,
Google's Tango algirthms only needs an
Android phone to detect its position using
photogrammetry via its on-board camera.
In May 2017, Trimble unveiled images
of an integrated tablet and miniature
RTK GNSS receiver called Catalyst that
is capable of millimetre-level positioning
and augmented reality display of designs
and 3D models. It consists of the USB-
enabled Catalyst antenna, a smart phone,
and some clever software using Google’s
Tango algorithms and Trimble’s VRS
RTK corrections. Supposedly, ubiquitous
high-accuracy positioning will then
be integrated with the camera and the
display of 3D models held on the device.
However it is Microsoft's Hololens
that appears to be the first to market in
Australia to mix real imagery and objects
held in a database. Since Microsoft
released Hololens in December 2016, a
number of organisations have taken on
the platform and it seems to have caught
One local council has delved headlong
into the technology. Wyndham City, to the
west of Melbourne, is pioneering the use
of augmented reality in city planning (See
page 21) and has changed almost every
aspect of the workflow in the planning
department. Flaws in existing data are
easy to see and correct; it is much easier
to detect unintended consequences of
planning decisions; and citizens are given
a comprehensible view of the future of
Speaking at a sales conference in
Sydney in May 2017, Ben Yu from Watkins
Steel, a Brisbane-based metal fabricator,
described what he called an end-to-end
digital workflow to guide the construction
of large metal structures. 3D scanners
create point clouds that can be used to
create models of existing structures.
This can be imported into 3D modelling
software where a 3D model can be
created. Visualised in Trimble SketchUp,
it can be downloaded to Hololens and
then viewed on site. The design can
be checked against the real world and
any errors in the dimensioning, or any
unintended consequences of the design are
immediately apparent before steel is cut.
Hololens’ restricted field of view and
price point has meant its current form is
unlikely to go mainstream. However its
ability to find flaws in designs before they
are built and to contextualise the data
already makes it worthwhile for many
people in built environment professionals.
Hololens will certainly not be
alone in this race for long. Competing
manufacturers are rushing to market with
headsets featuring enhanced comfort,
brightness and field of view.
Finding real value
It is easy to underestimate the significance
of thall this. GIS gave a diagrammatic
representation of columns of numbers.
It was a huge advance, but still required
skilled individuals to read the diagrams.
AR and VR technology replaces the
diagrams with real objects.
For asset managers, the technology
is valuable in so far as it improves
the productivity of staff working in
the field. It also gives workers in the
field unparalleled fault-finding ability.
Representations of reality, whether it be a
CAD drawing of a new structure, or a map
in a GIS, can now be seen in situ.
One serious yet simple question remains,
where will the most value in AR be derived:
in headsets or on a handheld mobile devices.
Most of the current generation of headsets
struggle to match the brightness of the video
display with the brightness of the ambient
light. It works well indoors, but it is harder
to use on a bright sunny work site. It also
aligns more closely to existing clipboard
workflows. Or perhaps holographs or
contact lenses are not too far off either.
The important point is to recognise
that while the latest technology is
miraculous, it is not perfect. It still pays to
consider the applications carefully before
deciding on the best solution. The point is
to make it as useful as possible.
Jon Fairall was the foundation editor
of Position Magazine, and now works as
a freelance journalist and author. ■
Microsoft Hololens headset
Trimble prototype of an AR solution
Augiew mobile GIS software for mobile
Hit Lab NZ’s CityViewAR application
Augview aboard a Leica DX Manager
Google’s Tango computing platform
Continued from page 19
20 position June/July 2017
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