Iowa DOT Employs Augmented Reality for Construction Projects

March 5, 2024
Agency employs the technology and its data to visualize the existing and finished project.

The Iowa Department of Transportation is employing augmented reality to visualize each phase of the infrastructure construction lifecycle: planning, design, construction progress and maintenance. The technology, paired with real-time data, allows Iowa DOT to make reliable and accurate construction decisions on site. 

Matt Miller, IDOT's director of emerging technologies, explained in a blog post that Iowa DOT is continuously collecting data on construction and maintenance projects; creating a “mountain” of data is simply “a bunch of images, documents, and numbers” if it can’t be connected in a meaningful way.

That’s why Miller is working with augmented reality; a tool he said can help “connect the dots” so that the data collected by Iowa DOT can “tell a story” and help mold the future of safe and reliable transportation.

Using software, apps, and hardware, augmented reality overlays digital content onto real-life environments and objects. It is similar to virtual reality, but with augmented reality, you see what is real and add elements to it instead of creating an entirely new or “virtual” reality.

Read also: Trimble SiteVision Augmented Reality System

Using such tools helps Iowa DOT engineers “see” how work on a project is progressing.

“With augmented reality, you’re standing there and holding up the iPad or iPhone and seeing what is right in front of you and the model overlaid directly to your specific location,” Miller said. “That way you can see not only what is there, but what is going to be there when the project is completed.”

Miller added that augmented reality can also help in the planning phases of a project, too.

“If we’re planning a project, we need to know exactly where each item, like a utility pole, is located,” he said. “Using augmented reality, our inspectors can mark these elements quickly and easily on a digital image and send that back to the designer, helping that designer develop plans using the most current and relevant data. Having that data stored can make it much easier to make updates in the future.”

This information is being supplied in real-time, according to Miller. “We use a lot of satellite images, and they are very useful, but they only update every year or so,” he said. “Using the augmented models, we have very current images that we can use until the next round of satellite images are available.”

Source: AASHTO Journal

About the Author

Harlee Hewitt

Harlee is associate editor for Construction Equipment. She has a Bachelor's in English with a focus on technical writing.