01 Laing O'Rourke and HoloLens

Engineering first for hologram design

In 2016, Readify helped Laing O’Rourke pioneer multi-party, holographic design in Australia and gain a competitive edge in high-value bids

In less than 15 years, engineer Laing O’Rourke has established itself as one of Australia’s most innovative construction companies. From one of its first projects here – the iconic, cliff-hugging Lawrence Hargrave Drive in Wollongong – to current infrastructure projects that include airport expansions, defence bases and office towers, Laing O’Rourke prides itself on executing superb, ground-breaking engineering feats.

Great design is key to Laing O’Rourke’s success. So when Microsoft launched its holographic, mixed-reality suite, HoloLens, in U.S and Canada, Laing O’Rourke executives saw an opportunity to take an industry lead in designing, visualising and de-risking its infrastructure achievements.

What sets the HoloLens technology apart is the ability to share a holographic experience, so that two or more people can interact inside the construction model. With a shared, immersive, holographic experience, clients could see precisely how we plan to fulfil their ambitions." Ryan Macnamee, CIO, Laing O’Rourke

Ryan envisaged three applications. First, the ability to take clients on a walk around a billion-dollar piece of infrastructure right from the concept phase. Second, the ability to visualise design work, which would expedite design modifications and eradicate clashes in the physical world. Third, the ability to visualise a site through different phases of construction. This would aid project planning and execution — and gain stakeholder engagement.

Ryan faced one major challenge, however: in 2016 HoloLens was unknown to Australian engineering.

Other construction companies were looking at holograms, but often in isolation to their engineering teams. Our vision was to integrate every element of the digital model, as both a construction and a client tool. With HoloLens we’d break new ground before we even got on site." Ryan Macnamee, CIO, Laing O’Rourke

Readify: the innovation specialists

Laing O’Rourke had previously worked with Melbourne-based technology company, Readify, which specialises in Microsoft technologies. Readify had a reputation for innovation, having already helped Laing O’Rourke create web and mobile platforms for construction workers.

We partnered with Readify to deliver this experience because of the depth of their technical knowledge. They always push the technology envelope and are enthusiastic to work with." Ryan Macnamee, CIO, Laing O’Rourke

Into the unknown

But how to manage the risk? No-one knew if Microsoft HoloLens could re-create engineering solutions in a way that was both economical and repeatable. And even if the project was feasible, would the end the result have the all-important ‘wow’ factor?

Readify adopted a step-by-step approach starting with the most high-risk elements, then validating each critical capability in turn. This gave us confidence and a clear idea of what we’d be getting."Ryan Macnamee, CIO, Laing O’Rourke

Implementation: October—December 2016

Readify delivered four, distinct HoloLens capabilities:

  • A repeatable process. Readify transposed an existing digital design into a holographic image, then created an application to make the process repeatable for other designs.
  • Customised navigation. With a common set of tools, Readify enabled engineers to switch views, for example, enabling them to flick between views of a façade and the internal structure of a building.
  • Shared-view configuration. This feature enables multiple participants to view the same design at the same time and interact with it, so engineers can lead guided tours.
  • A time-series view. This enables engineers to visually step through successive construction phases, so they can assess site impact and improve construction planning.

Opportunities to add value

Readify also found ways to add value, which is where their relationship with Microsoft is so useful. During the project, Readify discovered a new feature — voice-activated navigation. We learned about it, implemented it, and it delivers a beautifully intuitive experience for the first-time user." Ryan Macnamee, CIO, Laing O’Rourke

In January 2017, Laing O’Rourke became the first, major Australian engineering company to roll-out a fully immersive, holographic capability that allows engineers to guide clients through a construction design. With the ability to update re-design work into the HoloLens suite, clients can also examine the visual impact of proposed changes.

Return on investment
By collaborating with Readify, Laing O’Rourke has quickly deployed industry-new technologies that deliver superb results and generate real value for clients.

Our clients are amazed when they first see their design in HoloLens. They can see what they are investing in, ask questions and visualise the build process. This helps us provide certainty to our clients as we deliver some of the nation’s most complex building and infrastructure works."Ryan Macnamee, CIO, Laing O’Rourke

Creative edge
Laing O’Rourke has also boosted its reputation as a technology-savvy innovator.

HoloLens helps us differentiate ourselves from competitors. Our customers are looking for innovation and collaboration. With the holographic experience clients see us bringing fresh technology to engineering design and challenging the traditional methods of construction."Ryan Macnamee, CIO, Laing O’Rourke

Competitive advantage
With a technology partner that can manage risk and stay focused on value-generation, Laing O’Rourke hopes to maintain its industry lead in augmented-reality design.

Readify helped us advance our whole innovation agenda. Next, we plan to take the device outdoors, so we can superimpose designs on real structures. Readify will be part of that journey."Ryan Macnamee, CIO, Laing O’Rourke

Awards

  • QLD iAwards Winner 2015
  • Microsoft Country Partner of the Year 2015