Augmented reality for infrastructure: a first step

Augmented reality (AR) is for sure a hot subject.  Several AR applications are already available on smartphones: real estate, tourist info, restaurant/shop location and reviews, subway stations location, games, etc.  It is just beginning, as AR technology could be leveraged to many more areas – imagination is the only limit.  Of course, one application area of high interest for us is infrastructure.

Potential applications of augmented reality for infrastructure are also numerous:  Here are a few (see images below): buidling site monitoring, underground infrastructure visualization, identification and query, etc

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I am convinced that if you had a basic AR system  for infrastructure that you could use on your smartphone, you could think of many more applications.

The main difficulty with augmented reality is registration: the capacity to display the 3D model information at exactly the right location on display, with respect to the real objects.  It is important: for instance, if you want to know the exact location of a damaged pipe underneath the ground surface (because you need to excavate and fix it), you would like the virtual pipe to be displayed just on top of it, on the ground surface, and not floating in the air somewhere around you.  For accurate display of the pipe to be possible, one thing we need to know is the exact user position and orientation (well actually what we need to know is the exact position + orientation of the mobile device used for augmentation).  If we have that info, AR is easy.  Unfortunately, that information is very hard to obtain with accuracy.  And if it is only approximate, augmentation will also be approximate.  A rough estimate of position and orientation is easy to get: GPS and compass provide a rather good approximation.  That is what the commercial AR applications rely on.  As a consequence, they are not very accurate.  See an example: the Wikitude AR browser:.