Microsoft HoloLens 2: Integrating with VDC software

Christmas came early this year: we got the Microsoft HoloLens 2.

Hyped for its improved battery life and processing power, as well as for its retina scanner technology, this mixed reality headset will be a game-changer for our Civil Construction team. With construction projects across Montana, including current ones in Bozeman and Billings, we’ll get a lot of opportunities to use this bad boy.

So let’s dive in and show you how we’ll use it.

Overview

We’ll be using the Microsoft HoloLens 2 with our virtual design and construction (VDC) software. This will help us provide accurate as-build dimensions, virtual tours, and better quality control for our construction projects. The flip-up visor is a new feature with the HoloLens 2, and will allow for safer movement through the construction space when the device isn’t on.

What is VDC?

In a nutshell, virtual design and construction is building an entire project digitally — before we build it in the real world. This method significantly lowers risks and mistakes, which means it also lowers a project’s bottom line.

To build a virtual model, a three-dimensional scan of the actual space is necessary. For this purpose, we own and operate a Trimble TX6 3D Laser Scanner — the only one in the state of Montana. Its accuracy and dynamic range are unmatched: a space that normally requires about three-and-a-half hours to measure, our 3D scanner can accomplish in only five minutes.

From the three-dimensional scan we can build a virtual model using Autodesk Revit, our building information modeling software.

The next step is to integrate it with the HoloLens 2 to create an immersive mixed-reality experience. The final result is incredible. Quin Williams, VP and resident gearhead, had to see it for himself.

Demonstration

Quin took the HoloLens 2 to one of our current projects: the new ICU for the Bozeman Health Deaconess Hospital. Integrated with our virtual design and construction (VDC) software, the headset allows us to see an interactive model overlay of our equipment, piping, and ductwork in the space.

Before reading any further, watch the video above. (We’ll wait.) Notice a small amount of lag in the movement of the model? This is due to the 30-degree addition to the field of view in the HoloLens 2. Microsoft is releasing a new patch for this discrepancy, so that the rendering platform will not have to make these small adjustments in real-time. We’ll be sure to make an updated video when the new software patch is live.

As mentioned above, we created our mechanical model in Autodesk Revit 2019. There are two methods we can use for aligning this virtual model with real-world geometry:

  • Manually: This is how we did it in the video above — aligning the model manually using the software’s built-in Cartesian coordinate widget. This widget allowed us to place the virtual model in the augmented reality field, using two points on the equipment pad (seen at 1:44 in the video). However, this is the least accurate method.
  • QR Code: This is the preferable method — using a printed QR code first, and then adding a two-point alignment function to further the accuracy in the model. Microsoft will be releasing a QR code method with the upcoming software patch.

We’re excited to use the Microsoft HoloLens 2 for our full slate of projects in 2020. This technology will greatly improve safety and the quality of our work. Not to mention this headset is just incredibly cool. Who says you can’t play while at work?

Questions?

Have any questions about how our VDC software integrates with the HoloLens 2? We’d be happy to answer them in the comments.

Text Us