For decades, engineers and builders have been able to transform their 2D drawings into 3D renderings with systems like AutoCAD, but Daqri’s Smart Helmet takes it one step further. Daqri, a Los Angeles-based tech startup, redesigned the quintessential hardhat for 21st-century use by integrating augmented reality technology. The helmet enables users to digitally visualize 3D building models in 4D reality and interact with the design.
“If you think about the power of what augmented reality visualization can do, it contextualizes both in the space and in the time you’re looking at it,” says Daqri’s president Andy Lowery, who was hired full-time in June, but has worked with Daqri’s CEO Brian Mullins as an adviser from the beginning.
The Smart Helmet offers the same protection of a hardhat, but looks more streamlined and includes a clear visor covering the top half of the wearer’s face. It uses an Android operating system and has a battery life of at least eight hours. Features include 360-degree navigation cameras, an industrial-grade inertial measurement unit, and a high resolution 3D depth camera. It also has the capability for HD video recording, photography, 3D mapping, and alphanumeric capture. All of this technology comes within the same dimensions and weight limit of a typical hard hart.
“We engineered from the ground up more of a human machine interface that allows workers or field engineers or inspectors to be empowered with this extra layer of visual information,” Lowery says.
Augmented reality in building and design is gaining popularity. For example, Lowe’s recently unveiled its “Holoroom,” where consumers input floor plan dimensions, create a virtual room with Lowe’s products, and customize features with a swipe of a finger or tap of a button.
On the construction side, some job sites already incorporate 4D technology using tablets. Workers hold up a tablet to project 3D renderings as another person marks locations for next steps. But, as Lowery notes, many operations are manned by only one person, so this process is ineffective. “The best you can do in those single person operations is use a handheld device, see virtually what the next step of the operation should look like, and then set it down and perform the operation by memory,” he explains. “There was this really large need in the industrial space to be hands-free but still see this visualization.”
The team aimed to create a wearable that incorporated 4D technology and consulted with customers to gauge their requirements and specifications. The Smart Helmet provides that hardware. Applications will be built separately, which means each industry will format custom applications to fit their needs. Daqri provides its 4D Studio Software, a no-code publishing tool, to help users create applications.
Though price is still under discussion, it’s expected to be thousands of dollars, if not more, as building materials for the Smart Helmet will run into the four digits. Lowery expects the most recent prototype to be available by the end of October, if not sooner. By early December he expects to begin conducting pilot programs with a few industrial customers to obtain field-testing data.