Augmented reality software shows where pipes and other underground structures are

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Then he switches his system into full gargoyle mode: enhanced visible light with false-color infrared, plus millimeter-wave radar. His view of the world goes into grainy black and white, much brighter than it was before. Here and there, certain objects glow fuzzily in pink or red. This comes from the infrared, and it means that these things are warm or hot; people are pink, engines and fires are red. The millimeter-wave radar stuff is superimposed much more cleanly and crisply in neon green. Anything made of metal shows up. Hiro is now navigating down a grainy, charcoal.gray avenue of water lined with grainy, light gray pontoon bridges tied up to crisp neon-green barges and ships that glow reddishly from place to place, wherever they are generating heat, It’s not pretty. In fact, it’s so ugly that it probably explains why gargoyles are, in general, so socially retarded. But it’s a lot more useful than the charcoal-on-ebony view he had before.

And it saves his life. As he’s buzzing down a curving, narrow canal, a narrow green parabola appears hanging across the water in front of him, suddenly rising out of the water and snapping into a perfectly straight line at neck level. It’s a piece of piano wire. Hiro ducks under it, waves to the young Chinese men who set the booby trap, and keeps going.


Hmm. A little change in the data here and there and the next backhoe job will make a great YouTube video.


. . . if the data is correct. A while back workers down the street cut our power line despite carefully avoiding the lines painted by “Miss Utility.”


If the data is correct indeed. Lots of “in-the-field-changes” will make this tech a bit dicey.

As-builts are never as built.


Well thats the same data management problem, as always. I spent ten years working for our road authority and the biggest problem with diggers was people who had zero interest in checking the database, who just dug their holes anyway. The easiest way to find the owner of a cable was to cut it and wait for the complaints.

A tool like this would make it easier to check, especially if it could be integrated into the digging equipment, so you see the AR view all the time.


And if the equipment refused to dig where it wasn’t supposed to. Gee, that would work.

I hear 'ya! Try electricians. If you’ve seen the closets I’ve seen…

The horror.
The horror.


And when is the game app version for phones coming out?

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No idea if it’s true, but I read a story about a team who were decommissioning telecommunications hardware at closed US military bases in Germany. One day they found a cable that appeared to be still live. It wasn’t marked on their plans and no-one they asked knew what it was. Eventually they decided to cut it.

Then they got a call from their extremely angry commander. That old cable that no-one knew about was the hotline between the White House and the Kremlin.


This has to be one of the most quoted books on this site…

Robert Heinlein’s novel Farmer in the Sky (1950) features an augmented reality display in a spacecraft. You could look outside with a CCTV system, but it would overlay that with transponder data from other vehicles and space platforms.


So how do you catch the Pokemons?


It does raise the issue that it might be important to view augmented reality data from the power, drainage and telecommunications regulators with the same user agent (while hunting for Pokemon of course) so it would make sense for the AR viewer to be in the operating system, with APIs to integrate it will remote data providers and local applications.

For utility-dwelling Pokémons I think you’re better off using old-school sewer cameras.rather than this newfangled AR stuff.


For me, this is fulfillment of a dream. I attended one of the first big municipal GIS conferences in San Antonio in 1992. During one of the “blue sky” workshops to imagine what we wanted, they were talking about how you would bring up the map of your choice - type in a section-number, or a neighbourhood name, or what. Continuous map databases were just starting to be developed, mostly you had to load in files of small areas. The notion of a master-map at low detail, where you’d click on an area to get that map, was popular.

I got a round of applause for saying that what you wanted was to lift your laptop up to the job site and just see the pipes beneath your feet, as if it were a “magic window”. (The term “AR” did not exist, though “VR” was already a popular dream.) This was hopelessly advanced in 1992 - nobody at the conference had a colour laptop, for instance. The mapping programs could only run at all on the fastest laptops, the ones that could run a Pentium. And it took a minute to load the mapping program and another to load in a square mile’s worth of, say, water map. Another minute if you also wanted the sewers, and so on.

And now, we’ve finally gotten there. Only 26 years!

Frankly, field usage of GIS never really got going with laptops, even. They really preferred paper right up into the 21st century, because of boot-up times, difficulty seeing the display in the sun, lack of computer expertise when it glitched. Mostly, the mapping computers were kept in the trailer, not actually used outdoors. It’s starting to happen now with phones, these are finally light and rugged enough for the crews.

There’s some of my water-system GIS maps at , but alas, not as exciting as AR. Mostly, GIS maps are used for planning, designe and job-management; in the field, you are mostly done when you know where (and where not) to dig.


I’ve heard of similar AR type 3D real time mapping for utilities and construction, but i’m not sure what kind of capital, time and effort it would take to implement the new tech and train everyone to use it. We joke about it occasionally at my work place, but a lot of the field guys are old timers and they have a hard time getting used to using tablets for field work. Some day i hope though, i run across badly mapped stuff in GIS all the time.

L.A.'s City Council President Herb Wesson said he was surprised to learn how much oil & gas extraction and piping infrastructure runs through the city after a leak was reported in the tony West Adams neighborhood. So yeah, let’s get these in the hands (or stuck onto the faces) of our elected reps.

Not quite. One of the selling points when GIS entered the market was that it would provide a “Digital Terrain Model”, including elevation.
Besides, (topographical) maps allways contain elevation data.

I work with GIS on a daily basis in my current job, and it is a very powerful and convenient tool. It doesn’t do anything that I couldn’t do with a stack of paper maps and charts and files and whatnot (and training and experience); but using GIS I get the information I need in minutes instead of days.
AR on tablets is an interesting step towards using GIS data in the field; as @Roy_Brander pointed out, laptops never quite really cut it.
But never, never forget that the map is not the territory… it’s usually a good idea to allow for test drillings/excavations in the project budget.


As others have said, it assumes the data is captured, stored and accurate. We recently had a few miles of a local dual carriageway dug up for a few months for new water mains, and huge delays occurred because of the things (other utilities) they discovered in their way, that there were no records of.