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New laser beam technology to improve building inspections

Building inspectors could soon be shooting laser beams in a bid to create faster and more effective inspections for buyers, according to new research.

New eye-tracking technologies being developed by Australian engineers to identify building defects could better equip building inspectors and also reduce costs.

University of South Australia PhD student Kieran May, under the supervision of Dr James Walsh and colleagues from UniSA’s Australian Research Centre for Interactive and Virtual Environments, have designed a tool that combines building information modelling and eye gaze data captured during a standard building inspection.

“The augmented reality headsets shoot laser beams out of the bottom of the user’s eye to track where they are looking in a 3D model when they do a building inspection,” Dr Walsh said.

The eye-tracking technology validates the checklist process, ensuring that construction workers are doing a thorough inspection by matching their eye gaze data against the 3D architectural building model, he said.

“The tool ensures that people doing a building inspection are not just walking through a room, but spending enough time to thoroughly check essential elements, identifying that light switches, taps, cables, or pipes are the correct ones and are properly installed,” he said.

“It comes back to doing inspections and just validating that whoever’s doing the inspection has actually done it appropriately and has spent the time to go through and look at each of those individual elements.”

Dr Walsh said the technology would help with getting a building inspection done and fast-tracking the sign-off before the certificate of completion gets done and before final payments are made, or even with the purchase of an existing building.

He said the technology would help produce a more thorough and auditable trail out the other side and would benefit commercial property inspections in particular.

“If you’re buying a significant value property, that’s going to be what you care about,” he said.

“Especially for the larger commercial properties and the more complex assets.

“When you’re looking at factories for example, where you’re not just buying the building itself but potentially the assets and the fittings within it as well, that’s where I think that’s where this is going be worth its weight in gold.”

The technology will also be suitable for residential building inspections.

Dr Walsh said that for the time being the technology uses a headset, but in time it could work with something like a smart phone.

“What we are doing here is a little bit out there now, but over the next couple of years, the tech is going become more and more pervasive,” he said.

“You can actually potentially do this kind of thing on your iPhone because the iPhone is actually tracking your face and to a certain extent where you’re looking.

“So while we are using a headset, going forward, there will be other augmented reality headsets coming out. 

“As the phones get better and better and the tracking and the phones gets better and better, everyone’s going to have one of these devices in their pocket. 

“So I think we’re going to be seeing more and more of this across all areas, not just for the construction and the real estate sectors.”

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Rowan Crosby

Rowan Crosby is a senior journalist at Elite Agent specialising in finance and real estate.