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Innovative Thinker | Augmented reality could transform the way designs are viewed

XYZ Reality Newsroom

Innovative Thinker | Augmented reality could transform the way designs are viewed

If you think augmented reality (AR) is just for the leisure industry, then civil engineering is set to become much more entertaining, and a lot more accurate.

According to David Mitchell, the founder and chief executive of construction AR specialist XYZ Reality, the technology will change the way designs are viewed and improve efficiency over the next five years.

Building from holograms

“Within five years, I think early adopters of AR technology will be building from holograms,” he predicts. 

“The industry is a long way on the journey from 2D design to 3D but AR will be a game changer – it gives BIM [building information modelling] real purpose when the work moves onto site. 

“Those firms that are still relying on 2D are already losing out on the benefits of 3D and risk being left further behind,” he adds.

The trend towards digital technology is reflected in Mitchell’s career  – five years ago he was working for contractor J Coffey on major projects after growing up in the building sector in Ireland. 


“I became obsessed by 3D and questioned why as an industry we were still using paper,” he says.

We are seeing less and less re-work needed with clients that drive the use of AR systems and processes.

He left the contractor to set up XYZ Reality which specialises in millimetre accuracy AR for construction. Mitchell says that this level of precision just cannot be delivered by consumer AR products, which are designed for the leisure market. 

The firm has developed bespoke headsets for the construction industry. They use cloud-based construction data, such as BIM 360, Revit or Navisworks, to display site simulations of what is planned before construction begins. J Coffey could clearly see the potential in XYZ Reality: the contractor helped Mitchell get the business started with seed funding. Mitchell adds that the use of AR moves digital technologies away from being reactive – finding the problem after something has been built, which is common with laser scanning and reality capture – to become proactive by enabling verification before construction or installation.

Bringing in AR early

Mitchell says that businesses engaging early and rethinking their design and construction processes to include AR from the start see the greatest benefits. 

One of the most recent projects to benefit is a £250M data centre in Europe where he says the contractor saw a nine-fold return on investment through a reduction in rework. 


Mitchell adds that through using AR headsets, staff can clearly see where
there are problems with delivering the design on site so they can be dealt with much earlier. 

“We are seeing less and less rework needed with clients that drive the use of AR systems and processes,” he says. “No one goes to work to make a mistake, but AR technology helps deliver get it right first time principles and avoid rework.”

In addition to improving efficiency and reducing waste, Mitchell expects the rise of AR technology to help address the skills issue. 

“This technology will help promote how exciting technology can be, which will help get more people into the industry, as well as equip the existing workforce with the tools to do more with less,” he says. 

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