Extended Reality in Construction: A Guide to AR, VR, & MR

Extended Reality in Construction: A Guide to AR, VR, & MR

Whether you're sold or not on using extended reality (XR) solutions like VR headsets in your personal life or not, it's hard to deny the growing potential these tools have in the business world. Augmented reality (AR) has already proven its worth across multiple industries, showing that it's not just for gaming and entertainment anymore. Take retail, for example. Brands are jumping on the AR bandwagon to enhance the online shopping experience, letting customers see how a piece of furniture or appliance might look in their own space. And in healthcare, VR is transforming medical training by being used to visualize organs and simulate procedures. 

In the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry, XR’s potential is both massive and relatively untapped. Today, XR offers a unique opportunity to bridge the physical and digital worlds that industry professionals work in, shifting processes and raising the bar on collaboration practices. Teams can now dive into their 3D models on a 1:1 scale, solving problems and getting hands-on in ways that go way beyond traditional computer screens. 

Businesses, especially those that rely on cross-departmental collaboration, stand to gain huge benefits from embracing extended reality solutions. In this post, we'll take a deep dive into the wonderful world of XR and explore how it can revolutionize the way construction businesses and projects operate. 

What we cover: 

Defining XR, AR, VR, and MR in construction 

Let's take a closer look at the expansive world of XR.

What is Extended Reality (XR)? 

Extended reality is an umbrella term that encompasses all immersive technologies, including AR, VR, and MR. XR represents the entire spectrum of immersive experiences, from fully virtual environments (VR) to augmented versions of the real world (AR) and everything in between (MR). In construction, XR technologies collectively offer a range of possibilities for enhancing visualization, collaboration, training, and project management. 

What is Augmented Reality (AR)? 

Augmented reality or AR refers to technologies and experiences that bring computer-generated objects into the user’s physical environment. "Augmented reality is the superimposing of information in the real world environment through digital means," explains Waleed Zafar, Mission Critical Director at XYZ Reality on an episode of the Digital Builder podcast. AR is typically powered by mobile applications, headsets, and other smart devices that superimpose digital objects into the real world.  

What is Virtual Reality (VR)? 

Virtual reality creates a simulated environment that completely immerses the user in a digital world. Unlike AR, which overlays digital content onto the real world, VR transports users to an entirely virtual space. Construction professionals can use VR to experience immersive walkthroughs of project designs, explore different material options, and simulate construction processes. It allows for a more intuitive understanding of spatial relationships and potential challenges within a project. 

What is Mixed Reality (MR)?  

In many ways, the future of AR in construction is already here. The technologies that enable the above-mentioned use cases already exist, and several firms are starting to test and refine various augmented reality initiatives.  

The most forward-thinking players are taking things to the next level by implementing mixed reality (MR). MR combines augmented reality with virtual reality (VR) by enabling users to be immersed in virtual content while still being aware of their physical environment. MR combines the best of both worlds, so you can see and interact with digital elements without getting lost in a completely virtual environment.  

Challenges of XR implementation in construction 

Despite the transformative potential of XR in construction, there are certain challenges that hinder its widespread adoption and successful implementation. Here are a few key challenges: 

Standards & interoperability. One significant challenge lies in the lack of industry standards and regulations. The construction industry lacks clear guidelines and protocols for the use of XR technologies, leading to fragmented practices and hindering collaboration between different stakeholders. This absence of standardization can compromise the interoperability of XR systems and create barriers to the seamless integration of XR technologies into existing workflows. 

Cost of adoption. XR hardware, such as AR devices and VR/MR headsets, can be expensive, especially for small and medium-sized construction companies. Additionally, the software and licenses required for XR applications can further add to the financial burden. This cost factor can limit the accessibility of XR technologies and discourage widespread adoption throughout the industry. 

Skills shortage. The construction industry faces a shortage of skilled workers, especially with those who have expertise in XR technologies. This skills gap hinders the realization of XR's full potential and requires significant investment in upskilling and training programs to bridge this knowledge gap. 

How is extended reality used in construction? 

In construction, XR can be used in everything from project planning to communications. Construction professionals can leverage AR, VR, and MR, for some of the following use cases: 

Improved visualization and planning. XR technologies provide immersive experiences that enable construction teams to visualize and interact with 3D models of their projects. This enhanced visualization facilitates better decision-making by identifying potential challenges, optimizing designs, and ensuring project success from the outset. 

Progress capture. Mixed reality solutions can be used to track and document how projects are progressing. There are several solutions in the market that let construction pros capture project progress. These apps use your device's augmented reality features to identify where you are in the floorplan and automatically take pictures at every capture point. Doing so ensures that team members always capture at the exact same location over time, thus improving progress capture efficiency and accuracy.  

Supercharged collaboration. XR technologies break down geographical barriers, enabling seamless collaboration among team members regardless of their physical locations. This fosters real-time discussions, problem-solving, and coordination, leading to improved project outcomes. 

Enhanced safety. XR technologies enhance safety by providing immersive training simulations and real-time hazard identification. This enables construction workers to practice and respond to various scenarios in a controlled virtual environment, reducing the risk of accidents and injuries on actual construction sites. 

Construction training. When it comes to teaching people on how to use complex equipment or heavy machinery, XR can assist educators through life-like demos, so workers can see equipment in action before heading to the site. Due to its interactive and engaging nature, extended reality solutions can help demonstrate hazardous materials or situations without exposing team members to the real thing. 

Watch more:

The future of XR in construction is bright. As XR technologies become increasingly affordable and accessible, they are expected to play an increasingly important role in the construction industry. 

Some of the key construction trends that are expected to shape the future of XR in the industry include: 

Preconstruction and design

XR is posed to play an even bigger role in the earliest project phases for design and constructability reviews. The immersive nature of the technology enables teams to review and approve designs, well before anything is built.  

According to Autodesk's Nicolas Fonta, Senior Director & General Manager of XR, “Specifically in construction, firms are primarily utilizing XR in preconstruction for collaborative design reviews and constructability reviews, as well as for coordinating design and build on the jobsite. By connecting XR experiences to common data environments, professionals can enhance their collective understanding of the intended space and identify issues earlier in the process. This ultimately results in fewer errors, reduced material waste, significant cost savings, and the avoidance of scheduling delays." 

Growth of VR for training and simulation

VR will increasingly be used to create realistic simulations of construction projects, allowing workers to practice tasks and procedures in a safe and controlled environment. According to James Niyonkuru Bicamumpaka, Sr. Project Engineer, Webcor Builders (in a recent trends blog), “Increased use of VR and AR in transforming simulation, training, and on-site safety will allow employees to learn new skills in a secure and engaging setting." 

According to Christy Steffen in a recent trends blog, Assistant Director, Gaylor Electric, VR solutions also empower teams to scale up their training programs, "For one, I’m excited about the exploration and application of VR in construction, particularly in the training space. While it still has a long way to go, the potential it has to scale training processes is immense for enterprise-level construction firms. So, for instance, think how it can be leveraged to train people across 10 offices and projects across 22 states.” 

Development of MR for complex project visualization and collaboration

MR will combine elements of AR and VR to allow users to interact with digital objects in the real world. This will be particularly useful for visualizing complex construction projects and enhancing collaboration between different stakeholders.   

"Some of the biggest construction trends and innovations that we are starting to explore are the use of AR and drones,” says Kelly Barber, Division Chief, Systems Management, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation in a recent trends blog. “AR has the massive potential to bring the rich information that typically stays in the office to the field. By leveraging 3D models in the field, teams can walk the projects, and ensure constructability and maintainability without having to wait for a designer to be brought on site. The key is to integrate AR seamlessly with communication processes to maintain effective collaboration without the traditional silos and disconnects between the office and field.” 

Overall, the future of XR in construction is bright. XR technologies are transforming the way that construction projects are planned, built, and managed. As these technologies continue to develop and become more affordable, they are expected to play an increasingly important role in the construction industry. 

Examples of Top Extended Reality Technology in Construction 

You’ve learned about the different use cases of XR, AR, VR, and MR in construction; now let’s look at the companies and solutions that are making them happen. 

Autodesk Workshop XR 

Collaborative design review workspace Autodesk Workshop XR immersively connects teams to their models directly through Autodesk Construction Cloud. Workshop XR provides more effective and efficient design reviews for the AEC industry. The solution empowers real-time, shared experiences for teams to review 3D models and data from anywhere, resulting in better decision making and more profitable, sustainable projects. 


GAMMA AR overlays 3D BIM models on the construction site using augmented reality that allows you to detect errors prior to constructing the building, reducing mistakes and unnecessary back-and-forth between parties. It can also be used to visualize models and designs before it is built. 

Construction site teams that utilize GAMMA AR for tracking progress on the jobsite can link data collected in the field with Assets within Autodesk Build. Once linked, GAMMA AR progress data collected on-site can be visualized directly within 3D BIM models managed in Autodesk Build. 


Sitelink is a 3D mobile collaboration tool for construction field teams that combines augmented reality, indoor localization, and reality capture to streamline issue resolution onsite. Project stakeholders can import 3D models directly from Autodesk Build, Autodesk Docs, or BIM 360, and create Autodesk Build Issues directly from Sitelink for real-time issue tracking.  


DepthXR is an immersive VR collaboration platform tailored for Architecture, Engineering, Construction, and Design firms. Project teams can seamlessly import 3D models managed in Autodesk Build or BIM 360 directly into DepthXR for comprehensive, immersive design reviews. This integration enhances visualization and fosters real-time collaboration, reducing errors and accelerating decision-making. 


vGIS.io transforms spatial data — BIM, GIS, and 3D scans — into construction-grade Digital Twin and AR. vGIS comes with plugins for Civil 3D, Revit and Navisworks and direct integrations with Autodesk Construction Cloud to reduce or eliminate manual data preparation for AR. 

XYZ Reality 

Construction teams can view and position holograms of BIM onsite to 3-5 millimeter accuracy, validate in real-time, and make immediate decisions in the field during all phases of construction. Combining Engineering Grade augmented reality™ (AR) technology and comprehensive Project Controls, XYZ Reality gives owners and contractors an accurate and objective way to manage and deliver projects, and allows crews to build it right, first time. 

Learn more about these tools and their integrations into Autodesk Construction Cloud  

Extend what’s possible in design and construction 

Extended reality will be a big part of the construction industry in the years to come. If you’re not leveraging this technology yet, start exploring ways to do so. Look up solution providers and find opportunities to use XR in your projects. When you set up the foundation today, you’ll be well equipped to compete in the future.  

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Grace Ellis

As Manager of Content Marketing Strategy at Autodesk and Editor in Chief of the Digital Builder Blog, Grace has nearly 15 years of experience creating world-class content for technology firms. She has been working within the construction technology space for the last 6+ years and is passionate about empowering industry professionals with cutting-edge tools and leading strategies that improve the quality of their jobs and lives.