Augmented Reality & Smart Hard Hats: Building Virtual Reality Over Real World Construction

Hard hats were invented to protect the heads of construction workers, but who would have imagined that now, these helmets can give their wearers superpowers?

RMIT AUSTRALIA: the smarter the hat, the safer the worker.

The Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) have developed a system of sensors that can be embedded onto helmets, safety glasses and boots in order to improve the safety of construction workers.

For example, the sensors can alert workers if a risk of heatstroke can occur by monitoring the temperature, heart rate and the external conditions. Furthermore, the system can send the data to the site management allowing them to consider if and when the workers should have a break.

Beyond the safety: the rise of Augmented Reality

augmented reality technology

Augmented reality is a new technology based on graphics, audio and other sensory enhancements, that merges virtual reality and the real world by displaying digital content connected to physical locations and objects.

Its usage is not something new for the military, especially for aircraft, in the form of “heads up” displays in the cockpit or head-mounted displays. Recently the US Navy’s Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division (NSWC PCD) developed “The Divers Augmented Vision Display” (DAVD): this wearable device is a diver’s helmet with a display that helps divers see in near-zero visibility.

Even drones are now equipped with AR devices and there are many potential benefits for the construction industry. By navigating the drone to a specific GPS location, the AR image appears: in this way it is easier for engineers and architects to create a simulation of the building and see it on the ground in real-time.

For us common mortals, there are applications for cell phones that can be considered as primitive versions of augmented reality which allow, for example, to watch a movie trailer by pointing the smartphone camera at a poster or animate a static print with enhanced digital content such as animations, videos and links.

More specific apps for architecture and constructions allow project teams to build plans in 3D and allow users to navigate the project through the app.

(If you are curious about these apps, there is a list of the most popular ones at the end of this post.)

AR smart hard hats by Daqri

Daqri is a LA-based augmented reality company that developed an augmented reality smart hard hat called the “Daqri Smart Helmet, which is equipped with a sixth-generation Intel Core M7 processor. It’s an advanced sensing technology with a combination of cameras that can capture 360-degree views. Within the camera, intelligent software called “Intellitrack” captures, processes and displays data and information about the user’s surroundings in real-time. The information collected includes important statistics such as valve readings and thermal data. It also stores safety guidelines and other work information.


The company also created separate computer software called the “Daqri 4D Studio”, which syncs with the headgear to project 4D data directly onto an HD hands-free display beneath a protective visor.

Another important feature of the device is that it can be integrated with building information modelling (BIM) software to show workers the insides of structural elements of the building.

smart hard hat daqri carey london blog

As the company states: “the smart helmet knows how you move through space, and it can map the environment and start to create a 3D reconstruction of a facility. When you have multiple people wearing the smart helmets, they share that information and you build an entire model of the facility with that combined data.”

The helmet has been in a pilot phase with some major corporations, including Autodesk, GE, Topcon, Hyperloop and KSP Steel and will probably be available for purchase in the first quarter of this year.

Augmented Reality Apps

Layar (Android, iOS)

Blippar (Android, iOS)

Aurasma (Android, iOS)

Mybrana (Android, iOS)

Yelp (Android, iOS)

iOnRoad Augmented Driving (Android, iOS)

Wikitude (Android, iOS)

Theodolite (iOS)








From Tar to Sugarcane: the History of Hard Hats.

Caring about safety it’s something that comes naturally today, but only a few decades ago this concept was completely different or even not considered.


Not so many ago there was no regulation and injuries were very common: workers were exposed to dangers without wearing proper equipment and hard hats, elements which define the image of the construction worker as we see it today. In the past, in order to prevent injuries from falling objects, workers used to smear their hats with tar and then set them to dry in the sun.

The first safety helmet for civilians (because helmets were made for soldiers) seem to have been created by Franz Kafka in 1912, according to management professor Peter Drucker, but there is no documentation that can support this information.

What is certain, instead, is that the first civilian hard hats were made of leather and manufactured in California by E.D. Bullard Company, a mining equipment firm founded in 1898.The first evolution happened when the founder’s son came back from the World War I bringing a steel helmet which inspired him with the idea of improving industrial safety of the workers. He patented the “Hard-Boiled Hat” in 1919, which was made of steamed canvas, glue and black paint. In the same year, the U.S. Navy commissioned Bullard to create a protective hat for shipyard workers and he improved his hard hat with inner suspension. From that moment the use of hard hats began popular, but only in the 1931 it became officially required: on the Hoover Dam project hard hat use was mandated by Six Companies, Inc.

In 1933 by order of the project chief engineer Joseph Strauss, workers were required to wear hard hats while building the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California. He wanted to create a safer workplace by installing safety nets and commissioning from Bullard hard hats for workers that did sandblasting. This hat covered the worker’s face, had a window for vision and air supply from a compressor for breathing.About the materials, at the beginning safety helmets were made of steel. In 1938 aluminium became a standard except for electrical jobs. Another popular material was the plastic Bakelite, to ensure a rigid protection and less weight on the worker’s head, while fiberglass came into use a few years later. Thermoplastics started to be used in the 1950s.

In 1952, MSA (Mine Safety Appliances) developed the Shockgard Helmet to protect electrical linemen from electrical shock and ten years later released the Topgard Helmet, the first made of polycarbonate.

1962 is the year of the V-Gard Helmet, one of the most widely used in the United States.

Today, most safety helmets are made from high-density polyethylene (HDPE) or advanced engineering resins

In 1997 the American National Standards Institute allowed the development of a ventilated hard hat to keep the head cooler as well as face shields, sun visors, earmuffs, and perspiration-absorbing lining cloths. Hard hats functionality can also be improved with other attachments like radios, walkie-talkies, pagers, and cameras.

Green note: recently (2013) has been developed the MSA V-Gard GREEN Helmet, which is the first industrial safety product produced from 100% renewable resources, made of high-density polyethylene (HDPE) derived from sugarcane ethanol. This helmet is also recyclable.

What about the latest innovations? Stay tuned for the next post, we will have a look at the smart helmets!

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