Augmented reality visualization: A review of civil infrastructure system applications


In Civil Infrastructure System (CIS) applications, the requirement of blending synthetic and physical objects distinguishes Augmented Reality (AR) from other visualization technologies in three aspects: (1) it reinforces the connections between people and objects, and promotes engineers' appreciation about their working context; (2) it allows engineers to perform field tasks with the awareness of both the physical and synthetic environment; and (3) it offsets the significant cost of 3D Model Engineering by including the real world background. This paper reviews critical problems in AR and investigates technical approaches to address the fundamental challenges that prevent the technology from being usefully deployed in CIS applications, such as the alignment of virtual objects with the real environment continuously across time and space; blending of virtual entities with their real background faithfully to create a sustained illusion of co-existence; and the integration of these methods to a scalable and extensible computing AR framework that is openly accessible to the teaching and research community. The research findings have been evaluated in several challenging CIS applications where the potential of having a significant economic and social impact is high. Examples of validation test beds implemented include an AR visual excavator-utility collision avoidance system that enables workers to "see" buried utilities hidden under the ground surface, thus helping prevent accidental utility strikes; an AR post-disaster reconnaissance framework that enables building inspectors to rapidly evaluate and quantify structural damage sustained by buildings in seismic events such as earthquakes or blasts; and a tabletop collaborative AR visualization framework that allows multiple users to observe and interact with visual simulations of engineering processes.

Document Type





engineering visualization, augmented reality, excavation safety, building damage reconnaissance, visual simulation, education

Publication Date


Journal Title

Advanced Engineering Informatics