Could laser beams save the construction industry millions?

Australian engineers are developing new laser beam, eye-tracking technology to help construction professionals streamline building inspections.

University of South Australia (UniSA) PhD student Kieran May, computer scientist Dr James Walsh and colleagues from UniSA’s Australian Research Centre for Interactive and Virtual Environments, have designed a tool that combines building information modelling and eye gaze data captured during a standard building inspection.

The aim of the technology, embedded in 3D headsets, is to enable construction workers to identify building defects early in the construction process, which could save companies millions of dollars, time, and resources.

Dr Walsh says the augmented reality headsets shoot laser beams out of the bottom of the construction worker’s eye to track where they are looking in a 3D model during a building inspection.

The eye-tracking technology validates the checklist process, ensuring that construction workers are doing a thorough inspection by matching their eye gaze data against the 3D architectural building model.

“The tool ensures that people doing a building inspection are not just walking through a room, but spending enough time to thoroughly check essential elements, identifying that light switches, taps, cables, or pipes are the correct ones and are properly installed,” says Dr Walsh.

“Depending on the nature of the build, whether it’s bespoke or more standardised, the temptation is to tick checklist boxes without doing a rigid inspection, and that can cost thousands of dollars if defects are not picked up early on.”

Dr Walsh says the eye-tracking data does not replace a checklist, but validates it, so defects must still be manually recorded.

“For the construction industry, at the end of the day it’s all about costs and timelines,” he says. “The earlier we can identify what has gone wrong, the quicker we can fix it and the cheaper it is going to be to remedy it.”

In collaboration with construction partners, the researchers are currently evaluating the tool on site over the life cycle of a building project.

“One of the great things about this project is that it’s an example of how our PhD students and researchers are working on real-world applied problems that can help industry now, not in 10 or 20 years,” Dr Walsh says.

The project was presented at the 2022 IEEE International Symposium on Mixed and Augmented Reality in Singapore.

Leave a comment