Skip to main content

Trimble & University of Cambridge build the future of construction with HoloLens

Written By published January 25, 2017

In November, we announced the release of Trimble’s SketchUp Viewer to the Windows Store, the first broadly available commercial Microsoft HoloLens application.  Trimble is using HoloLens and SketchUp Viewer to bring mixed reality to the construction industry, enabling Architecture, Engineering Construction and Operations (AECO) professionals to extend the value and investment that they have already made in 3D modeling. SketchUp Viewer on HoloLens allows people to inhabit their designs in a natural and immersive way, creating improved collaboration and a better understanding of designs in real scale. This exciting collaboration was the first application of its kind and, as it turns out, just the beginning!

We have continued to work closely with Trimble and the Construction Information Technology Lab at the University of Cambridge to explore ways of advancing the use of technology in the AECO industry, empowering companies to be more innovative and efficient. The collaboration has resulted in new ways to bring mixed reality to the AECO industry, with two exciting technology trials underway:

The first is Automated Progress Monitoring, a way to address one of the most laborious, time consuming and error prone procedures in the industry: the demand to regularly, and manually, inspect remote structures. The process is currently conducted through visual inspections, form filling and report writing, and is made particularly painstaking by the need to extract information from different drawings and databases. The new trial revolutionises the process by presenting all physical and digital information through HoloLens, allowing inspectors to check, cross-reference and report on inspections very quickly, and collaborate with site representatives.

The second is Automated Bridge Damage Detection. Rather than sending structural engineers to each bridge as part of its inspection routine, through discoveries generated via the collaboration, high-resolution images can be taken by local teams and sent to inspection engineers. These are then automatically mapped onto 3D models of the respective bridge. Structural engineers can then review the integrity of a bridge in mixed reality using HoloLens, making recommendations for repairs or other preventative measures. This reduces costs and is more efficient, making sure bridges do not enter their ‘failure zone’, leading to major road closures and disruption.

“The construction sector is undergoing rapid transformation as a result of the revolution in digital engineering,” said Dr. Ioannis Brilakis, Laing O’Rourke Lecturer, Director of Construction IT Laboratory at the University of Cambridge. “It has a wide portfolio of research projects which aim to solve problems in the construction sector.This exciting relationship with Trimble will enable us to work together to push forward our agenda to develop new, transformative tools and technologies to deliver a much safer and more productive construction industry and help build the infrastructure on which the well-being of society depends.”

The collaboration between Cambridge and Trimble has a simple objective: to provide construction sector stakeholders with the information they need to make informed decisions and better manage physical infrastructure assets throughout their lifecycle. These trials are set to bring productivity and sustainability gains for the sector across the world. In the future, mixed reality may well be used by construction workers to make it easier for them to accurately position materials or make welding joints, improving productivity for all workers.

Regarding the collaboration, Aviad Almagor, Director, Mixed Reality Program at Trimble said: “Cambridge University is a world-renowned educational institution, and it’s been a fascinating experience to partner with the university and Microsoft, using HoloLens to envision the future of the AECO industry. This initiative has helped us to inform the next frontier of technology within the sector – especially in areas such as construction, where IT has traditionally been underutilised. At Trimble, we’re excited about the potential mixed reality has to transform this industry, and partnering with Cambridge and Microsoft is just the beginning.” 

Mixed reality is at the start of its journey in the sector and by visualising industry data, there are many exciting opportunities still to be explored and realised – not only in the construction industry, but in healthcare, education and automotive, among others. Visit to learn how other commercial customers are applying the transformative power of mixed reality.