A research team at the University of Cambridge has begun trials to determine the feasibility of using virtual reality headsets to perform building inspections.

The university’s Construction Information Technology (CIT) Laboratory is collaborating with California-based technology company Trimble, which services the construction, geospatial, agriculture and transport industries.

The trial works by uploading high-resolution photos taken of a bridge into Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform. From there, a HoloLens is used to view these photos stitched together, allowing the wearer to zoom in and out, rotate, and move around the structure.

As the HoloLens connects to the cloud, the wearer could be located anywhere in the world, thereby negating the need for an on-site inspector.

Having the ability to zoom in on the virtual environment would also enable more accurate diagnoses of structural issues, leading to fewer large-scale repairs, less downtime, and reduced traffic delays and congestion.

Dr Ioannis Brilakis, director of CIT Laboratory, said in a statement: “This exciting relationship with Trimble will enable us to work together to push forward our agenda to develop new, transformative tools and technologies to deliver a much safer and more productive construction industry and help build the infrastructure on which the well-being of society depends.”

The CIT Laboratory is also exploring other use cases for the HoloLens, including keeping track of work while constructing homes and offices, and if the device can assist manufacturers by reducing the need to refer to blueprints.

Aviad Almagor, Trimble’s director of its mixed reality program, said: “This initiative has helped us to inform the next frontier of technology within the sector – especially in areas such as construction, where IT has traditionally been under-utilised.”