Recent announcements by Unity, Autodesk and industry trade publications drive home a point BIM specialists like me have been making since the start of 2019: the augmented reality (AR) wave has finally reached the AEC Industry and it is going to revolutionize the way we design, build, and communicate.
Augmented reality provides a fully immersive simulation environment—allowing CAD users to easily visualize their designs and compare these designs against real-world conditions. Most importantly, designers can share their designs with practically anyone, including key stakeholders typically unfamiliar with BIM/CAD software.
Using augmented reality, I personally have been able to elevate and enhance the 3D coordination, clash detection analysis, and design review services I provide to my clients. For folks normally left out of much of the 3D design process, this technology provides an immersive environment that really brings my BIM design models to life.
There are a few visualization and VR programs that have been released lately (Twinmotion, Lumion, Enscape) that have simplified the process, but Torch is unique among these as the only AR-focused, 100% mobile tool made for sharing your designs with anyone. I picked it up this summer and have been using it since.
Quickly view Revit models on-site in AR
In this post, I will demonstrate the process of exporting your AEC design models from tools like Autodesk InfraWorks or Revit leveraging Torch to provide a fully immersive augmented reality environment. After importing into Torch, we will position our design model at the worksite and walk through a full-scale version of our model for review.
If you’d like to follow along with your own InfraWorks models, download Torch AR for iOS for free to get started.
The basic steps couldn’t be more straightforward—you simply:
- Export files from InfraWorks
- Use Dropbox integration to import your files in Torch
- Position the model on-site with an iPhone or Ipad
- Review your design in an immersive AR walkthrough
It’s a snap to do and, given the reactions you’ll see from your clients and coworkers, a great return on your time invested.
1. Prepare and export files from InfraWorks
After all BIM design components and elements have been incorporated into your InfraWorks environment, use the Export 3D Model command to create a consolidated 3D model in FBX format.
2. Use the Dropbox integration to upload files in Torch
You can place your exported 3D FBX model into an attached Dropbox folder for easy uploading and real-time asset updating in Torch projects. Using the Torch Dropbox integration gives you a fast, direct path for custom assets—just make sure to zip the FBX (or any model you import to Torch).
3. Create site-specific experiences on a mobile device
Go onsite, create a new project in Torch and anchor your project to the real world.
Quick aside: The project anchor is the 0,0,0 xyz coordinate for your project relative to which all your designs are positioned. If you want someone else to be able to view the project in the same position, choose an obvious landmark. You can also use an image anchor – a sign or QR code or something similar. Watch a video about anchors here.
Once your new project has been configured within Torch, scroll to your Dropbox, select your FBX model and drag and drop onto your scene. You can then move, rotate, and scale your model as needed. Position your design model in its intended location on-site for a 1-to-1 review.
4. Review your designs in an immersive walkthrough
Once your 3D model has been properly located, walk around your site to get a better perspective of how your design will appear before construction even begins.
This provides you and your stakeholders an opportunity to surface safety concerns, discuss logistics and design decisions, and basically provides a much richer overall experience for your client.
Be sure to hand them the iPad or phone and explore for themselves. They’ll be amazed and impressed.
Ride the AR wave into the future
As use cases go, this is a straightforward simple example of leveraging AR to enhance your BIM/CAD/CIM workflow. But there are so many other great applications for which augmented reality technology can be applied: you can share scale models to remote parties during meetings, present multiple options for stakeholders to consider, use Torch+ drone footage to create tours of job sites or enhanced inspection reports.
Basically, any time you think it would help you communicate your ideas to share a 3D representation of your work to a broader audience, Torch makes it easy to do so.
Explore AR with me
Please join me as I venture into the augmented reality world and determine best practices and establish practical use cases, such as this demonstration, for which this technology can be applied.
Download Torch, follow these steps, and share what you’ve created. You can post it on social channels with the #BuiltWithTorch hashtag or share it with me and I’ll promote what you’ve created.
And if you have any suggestions comments on future topics or new features you’d like to see, feel free to reach out to me at email@example.com.
About the Author
Stephen Walz has been in the AEC Industry since early 2003. He has taken on many roles in his career, from drafting & designing, to CAD & model management, to implementing company-wide BIM/CIM standards, procedures and workflows.