Over the last half century, the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry has undergone a seismic transformation, transitioning from paper blueprints to the dynamic world of 3D. Not too long ago we were engaging in discussions about how building information modeling (BIM), the boundless capabilities of cloud computing, and the mobility of technology would revolutionize design, collaboration, and construction.

These tools have become so ingrained in our professional lives that we sometimes overlook their impact, especially in our unfettered access to an astonishing wealth of data that resides at our fingertips on demand.

But technological evolution doesn’t end there. Enter extended reality (XR). XR encompasses virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and mixed reality (MR), and it’s already making an impact on how people collaborate and interact with their data.

Avatars greeting in Workshop XR

By using XR in AEC, everyone can meet, discuss, and walk their 3D models. Additionally, XR allows users to get a common understanding of projects, identify issues, and coordinate disciplines. This can all happen in an immersive, realistic 3D space that can be joined from anywhere. XR is taking digital transformation to the next level, and it’s all happening now.

“In VR, you’re collaborating immersively as if the building was actually built,” says Gabe Paez, Head of Product, XR, speaking about extended reality on the TRXL podcast. “It lets you experience an idea fundamentally and in doing so, evaluate it at its core, understand what you like or don’t like about it, and make it better and better before you have all of the high stakes of waste that come later in the building life cycle.”

The AEC industry started its early use of VR mainly for visualization and renderings. This is still especially helpful for owner and stakeholder reviews and walk-throughs to bring the project—quite literally—to digital life. Improved design reviews, cost savings, and new ways to collaborate with XR can deliver even better results for clients—and that translates into new competitive advantages.

By incorporating XR technology into workflows, firms can differentiate themselves from competitors and demonstrate their commitment to innovation. Stakeholders will recognize the technology’s potential for achieving more in less time with greater efficiency. But the real litmus test? It’s when XR improves the bottom line by reducing waste and rework.

Instead of discovering issues on site, the design and construction changes are virtual with clicks—not ripping out or wasting real materials. Given that the construction industry is one of the most wasteful in the world, generating an estimated 40% of solid waste generated yearly, the advantages are clear.

Leveraging XR technology offers several key advantages within AEC

Immersive Design Review: Users are able to virtually walk-through their designs in a human-scale context, providing a new understanding of how project data will translate in the built environment. This enables teams to detect design issues early on in the design and planning phase and prevent costly reworks or delays.

Collaborative Decision Making: By using a VR headset, stakeholders can convene in the virtual workspace, discuss, and make decisions together. This supports distributed work and leads to more efficient decision-making.

Stakeholders can walk directly into the digital version of a project that is realistic and true to life. Instead of discovering issues on site, the design and construction changes are virtual with clicks—not ripping out or wasting real materials.

Project Coordination and Management: Automatic data syncing can greatly streamline project coordination efforts and improve alignment among stakeholders, reducing miscommunication or the need for multiple collaboration tools.

Experiences beyond the screen

3D models are great, but AEC firms still grapple with sharing the model effectively. Unfortunately, the phrase “Well, I can’t see it” may sound a little too familiar. That’s where spatial computing comes into play, eliminating the limitation of external monitor perspectives. Physical space seamlessly integrates into the virtual environment. With XR, you just don’t see it—you feel it.

“With XR, all those problems disappear because you’re using your body and eyes to look and engage with the environment around you. No training is needed for that.” says Johan Germishuys, Director of Digital Solutions for Engineering Services Canada, AtkinsRéalis.

The interactivity of XR is immediate and palpable. Instead of the one-way conversations, it’s a truly collaborative experience where everyone can interact together. XR is growing in popularity and adoption for this very reason. In the “VR in AEC: Usage, Challenges, and Opportunities” report conducted by Engineering.com, a significant finding was that nearly half of the participants surveyed highlighted the remarkable advantages of using XR technology in the AEC industry. Among these benefits, two particularly stood out as critical drivers for collaboration within this field.

The first benefit emphasized was the ability of XR to facilitate the unification of dispersed teams. Often teams are separated by geographical boundaries, making collaboration and communication more challenging. XR can help transcend these physical limitations by providing a shared virtual space.

The second key advantage highlighted in the report was the improvement in communication around spatial design. XR enables stakeholders to be immersed in a three-dimensional interactive representation of the design. This experience can greatly enhance how stakeholders understand the spatial aspects of a project. As a result, projects can progress more efficiently, with fewer revisions, and achieve better outcomes.

Moving forward with XR

Working in XR creates a transformative—and more productive—experience. XR is rapidly evolving for more impactful and efficient ways of working. With the introduction of Autodesk Workshop XR, AEC teams can discover even more opportunities to track issues, catch costly errors, and enable better spatial understanding—along with improved workflows and integration.

The growing adoption of XR signals a shift in the way we approach work, collaboration, and project success. Secure your spot now and be part of something extraordinary. Join the waitlist for Autodesk Workshop XR.