The Future of XR in the AEC Industry

The available XR tools for the the AEC sector and its current developments are being influenced by the emergence of AR, VR, and MR technologies, collectively known as XR. In this post, we will focus on additional tools specifically designed for certain purposes and also speculate on the future of XR technology in the AEC field.

Differentiating factors: distinguish yourself from others

Although most XR solutions providers agree with the trends, a few have specialized in unique offerings that make them appealing and suitable for specific use cases. 

Authoring and collaboration 

Many XR tools support collaboration in some fashion, whether synchronous or asynchronous, but Arkio takes that collaboration the next level, supporting intuitive interactions among multiple participants to author design geometry in real-time. While this immersive creation is well suited to conceptual and schematic design phases, it also has a place on the job site, where builders are often lacking digital tools to sketch or mockup details as they plan their means and methods.  

Tie to layout 

XR in AEC rarely exists in a vacuum, and its use is often synergistic with other emerging technologies. If XR is good at confirming if facility assets have been installed in the proper size, quantity, and location (and it is!), other technologies like robotic “total stations” are key in determining where those assets go in the first place. Here, there is no better market leader than Trimble, whose FieldLink MR plays a unique role within an entire portfolio of hardware and software solutions and integrated workflows that leverages the accuracy of professional survey equipment and the intuitive experience of XR to deliver a best-in-class solution for construction layout. 

Tie to reality capture 

Layout isn’t the only technology to complement XR. Reality capture tools are the complementary technology to XR, as co-enablers of “digital twins.” For the most part, reality capture workflows are handled by a different sector of solutions providers, and anyone trying to harness the best of recap and XR must chart a frustrating course of confusing and not-always-compatible standards. Not so with SiteLink, whose core differentiator is its ability to bundle BIM and data, and enable users to share both seamlessly between the office and job site.  

Progress tracking 

XR software companies are investigating the possibility of enabling AEC professionals to monitor construction progress. This would provide contractors and their clients with an unbiased assessment of the installation status, indicating whether it is ahead, behind, or on schedule. XYZ Reality stands out, with a managed service including dedicated engineers to regularly update and compare what they see in the field to the BIM they see in XR.


to focus on creating sleek and stylish headsets, the main priority should always be ensuring the safety of workers. Utilizing XR technology in construction comes with its own set of safety considerations that cannot be overlooked. Magic Leap tout enterprise use cases, their devices are not rated for construction like Microsoft’s HoloLens is. And safety risks only increase with video passthrough AR/MR devices such as Meta’s Quest line of headsets. Two XR software providers stand out here: XYZ Reality, who offer the “Atom,” a purpose-built display solution specifically for construction and managed by dedicated on-site staff; and Argyle, whose “wireframe” edge-lit rendering allows its users to more easily see real-world job-site conditions through the noise of overlaid BIM data, a key complement to its stable tracking and data persistence. 

Multi-modal experiences 

The expense of immersive XR can pose a significant challenge for AEC firms, making it difficult to adopt and expand. Additionally, not every situation requires wearing a face-mounted display to achieve desired results. Although several XR solution providers offer experiences that go beyond head-mounted displays, two companies excel in their cross-platform and inter-modal approach to XR. Trimble’s connected portfolio of XR solutions works across the HoloLens (AR/MR), Quest devices (VR/MR), iPhones and iPads, and desktop. And Arkio works across Quest devices (VR/MR), iPhones and iPads. The user’s experience on both mobile and desktop devices is that of an active participant in collaboration, rather than a passive observer.

Anticipating: what comes after this

XR tools created to serve the AEC industry have come a long way in recent years and will continue to evolve in the future. There will need to be significant improvements in some aspects of the solutions to enable widespread adoption and returns on the investment of these tools. Some of the features and capabilities that the industry will need, include: 

Effortless, marker-less registration and alignment 

Professionals need to be able to experience spatialized data, in the right place at all times – accurately, persistently, and with minimal effort to register virtual and physical environments together. Argyle in particular has made great strides in this arena, and has shown the promise of consistent, persistent, and stable data alignment at a large scale, but the XR solutions at-large have a ways to go before we overcome this barrier to widespread adoption. 

Fabrication, assembly, and installation

XYZ Reality and Trimble have led the way in accurate tracking, and SiteLink and BIM Holoview have shown great promise in supporting specialized rendering and occlusion of hidden geometry. However, almost nobody has offered these features to truly enable easy, robust, accurate, and dependable construction installation use cases in the fabrication shop or on the job site. This is an area for tremendous opportunity that could ultimately provide the “killer app” for XR in AEC. 

                                            Image credit: XYZ Reality


Almost no XR solutions providers to-date seem to recognize the critical importance of enabling stakeholders to rapidly and intuitively create and view 2-D and 3-D sections of their data. Yet, designers and builders alike are accustomed to (dependent upon?) being able to review, align, compare, contrast, and relate multiple section drawings and detail views, to isolate and understand design intent, whether in the office, the job trailer, or the construction site. No XR tool is complete without robust and thoughtfully-executed sectioning features. Here, too, the solution to get this right first will almost certainly skip to the front of the line. 

Sensible scales

Humans have a natural inclination to relate to data and objects in three different scales: true 1:1 scale, body-scale, and hand-scale. These scales are not dependent on architectural conventions and are instead based on how we interact and perceive spaces and objects. While most XR solutions can handle 1:1 full scale effectively, only a few can accommodate the smaller “doll-house” scale, allowing professionals to interact with data on a drafting board or ARCH D size drawing. Additionally, very few XR solutions offer a model that can be held in your hand and intuitively manipulated, like a hammer or a sheet of paper. Furthermore, none of these solutions allow for seamless shifting between all three human-centric scales by default. This need for versatile scaling is not limited to AEC professionals but would greatly benefit them in the design, construction, and operation of the built environment. 

It’s a safe bet that XR software providers will continue to improve their tools to benefit the AEC industry. These improvements will come in part due to enhanced XR hardware capabilities, but largely by taking the time to truly understand the needs and business cases of AEC professionals, and their clients and customers. Likewise, designers and builders can only help themselves by getting better organized and more vocal about their needs and expectations of these tools to ensure their future functionality adds real business value. 

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