1. Introduction and Background
Mixed Reality (MR) technologies, including both augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), have a significant impact on the automation of the construction and architectural engineering industries in the modern era. MR refers to a blend of physical and digital worlds, unlocking natural and intuitive 3D human, computer, and environmental interactions. The development of MR technologies (MRTs) has rapidly progressed since 2010 [1
]. These technologies connect the physical world to the digital world and provide a way to access construction project information digitally, leading to digital disruption and the digitalization of the otherwise technology-averse construction industry [3
]. These technologies have numerous benefits in the construction industry, including virtual site visits and planning comparisons [4
]. In addition, MR (AR and VR) help improve communication among stakeholders and offers clear visualization for engineers and designers, leading to a better understanding of ongoing or upcoming projects [1
MRTs have been widely adopted across various domains, including education, entertainment, manufacturing, and information technology (IT), due to their accessibility and affordability [6
]. The mining industry is one of the sectors that has embraced MRTs. Research has shown that VR solutions can enhance occupational health and safety for coal miners by providing VR training. In a relevant study, workers were trained by experienced professionals using motion capture systems, Head-Mounted Displays (HMDs), joysticks, and working methods. The results indicated that VR technology is a highly effective platform that can protect trainees from exposure to dangers and risks common in the mining environment [7
]. Additionally, a VR-based training system has been developed to support the mining industry, and it has been found that the use of devices such as Magic Leap can improve the overall training experience [8
MRTs have gained significant attention in the healthcare sector due to their remarkable capabilities and innovative approaches. These technologies have seen intensive growth in surgical practices. Recent research has indicated that both clinical and surgical training has been improved and that the usage of MRTs in the healthcare industry will continue to increase [9
]. A study conducted between 2005 and 2015 reviewed the usage of MRTs in the healthcare industry and concluded that MR, especially VR, had shown more growth in three areas: eating disorders, cognitive and motor rehabilitation, and pain management [10
VR can be useful for training and examining healthcare workers by subjecting them to immersive virtual surgery rooms, where they can perform certain procedures without needing expensive real-life facilities and subjects. MR can also enhance the experience of visitors at cultural heritage sites. AR-based mobile applications can be used as tour guides, and VR applications can simulate unapproachable places. These technologies can increase the interest of visitors, provide them with a more immersive experience, and encourage future visits [11
The use of MR in the gaming sector is also dramatically increasing. Similarly, these advanced technologies play a crucial role in the education sector. A detailed analysis of the usage, benefits, and challenges of MRTs in education history has been presented in a relevant study [12
]. Researchers have found that the increasing trend towards online studies and distant learning has led to the use of MRTs [13
]. Researchers have developed a teaching system based on AR that shows increased student motivation levels and encourages innovation by enabling them to create design outputs during courses [14
]. Additionally, a VR-based tool has been developed that provides an effective solution to the challenges faced by students in visualizing structures [15
]. VR has been shown to create an effective education and learning environment and can enhance students’ understanding of material [16
]. Similarly, other recent studies have shown an increase in students’ success rate when exposed to such immersive MRTs [15
VR technology has been shown to assist people in solving difficult problems by allowing them to interact with digital devices [17
]. While the primary use of MRTs has been in the entertainment and gaming industries, their adoption has rapidly expanded to sports, education, tourism, and training [18
]. According to Goldman Sachs [19
], the VR and AR markets are expected to reach a size of $
80 billion by 2025.
In the United Kingdom (UK), data from a report on public goods revealed that MRTs are the primary advanced technologies used to enhance the efficiency of groundwork delivery and preservation, and aid in accountability and risk management. Similarly, in the United States (USA), the government’s IT capability enhancement initiatives involve the usage of MR [1
]. The emerging Citizen Technology Office (CTO) initiated the MR programs in 2017 to work on experimentation research and the clarification of related programs. Federal agencies in the USA are expecting these technologies to enhance their services in a wide range of applications, including the medical, education, and management areas [1
In 2017, the Manufacturing Technology Center (MTC) conducted an experimental study to check the maturity and reliability of MR in construction-related companies. The results indicated that only 37% of construction company workers had some knowledge related to MR [20
]. Davila [20
] estimated that only 34.4% of construction companies in the UK had used these technologies. Additionally, a relevant study [22
] found that the digitalization index range for the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry was the lowest among the 22 investigated industries.
Despite the rapid development of VR, AR, and other supporting MRTs, there have been limited studies offering a systematic inspection of their implementation and adaptation in construction engineering, education, and training [23
]. Although VR has been implemented in architecture, engineering, and construction education [24
], using an HMD can lead to serious problems, such as discomfort and poor depth perception [25
]. While real-world depth cues are reliable, in AR, only a subset of these cues is provided. Additionally, the available depth information given by augmented objects often conflicts with the information given by the real-world environment, resulting in cue conflicts and perceptual unpredictability [26
]. However, the obstacles that appear during implementation can be quickly overcome due to the continuous advancement of technology worldwide. The perception that MRTs are new technologies in the market and cannot be fully utilized in practice is incorrect [26
MR (including both AR and VR) technologies are of great importance to the AEC industry because the built environment is intrinsically connected to 3-dimensional space, and professionals in this industry rely heavily on visual imagery to communicate. AR, in particular, is an essential technology for improving construction projects. While research has been conducted on both AR and VR for many years, interest in these technologies has recently resurged due to the development of more advanced and capable HMDs [27
VR simulations provide an immersive and interactive environment that can assist architects in planning and designing buildings and cities [28
]. They can also help reduce project costs, risks, and delivery time while allowing customers and users to experience the design of a structure before it is built [29
]. AR has many useful applications in the construction industry that can significantly enhance construction productivity [30
Research has helped create a comprehensive map of excavation, positioning, inspection, coordination, and other aspects of the construction process using MRTs. A clear scenario of AR in the AEC industry has been presented, with a review of important research efforts up to 2009 and an organization of various AR technologies with their pros and cons by a relevant study [31
The adoption of AR in the AEC industry focuses on four main aspects: localization, natural user interface, cloud computing, and mobile devices [32
]. However, the use of MR in the AEC area remains low in general [1
]. A study conducted in 2017 found that only 37% of construction companies had experience using MR [33
]. In another study, researchers compared the long-term effects of VR safety training with traditional methods. They trained one group with VR and the other with traditional safety methods. The results showed that VR-based training was more effective than traditional methods [34
]. Additionally, scientists have developed a platform that uses 360-degree panoramic recorded videos from the real world and integrates them into VR for construction safety training. Results show that the platform improves workers’ hazard-assessment skills [12
]. Similarly, AR tools are also useful in developing a framework for maintaining gas and oil facilities, ultimately increasing the quality of work [35
Similarly, research has shown that VR technologies and environments are beneficial for construction and safety training. They can help with project schedule control [36
], promote better understanding among stakeholders [37
], provide clear views of complex designs [38
], and help trace faults and design errors [39
]. These technologies can also help users create a sense of the project and target a suitable design area, even with complex structures [40
], and facilitate mutual decision-making [41
]. A cost estimation framework for construction using VR technology has been developed, which uses a real-time virtual reality model that allows clients and users to change the materials of floors, walls, and other parts of the structure and see the price impact in real-time [42
]. This could be highly beneficial to estimators in the AEC industry [43
]. Overall, adopting MRTs has played a crucial role in the construction industry, providing training programs that can help workers improve their regular activities. Traditional methods, such as simple computer-based learning, have not been effective in equipping decision-makers to interact with specific situations. In addition, on-site training for significant production value tasks, such as oil and gas plant maintenance, is often challenging because the site’s conditions are not revealed until the project starts.
Therefore, the current research aims to study MR adoption in developing nations by analyzing its benefits and barriers and capitalizing on its potential to help developing nations catch up with developed ones. Historically, technological achievements in developing nations have lagged behind those in developed nations. However, MR technology (a nascent concept) can aid in closing the gap by expanding access to digital infrastructure and sectors, including construction and other connected industries. Furthermore, MR can assist developing nations in building a digital infrastructure that will be the cornerstone of their economic growth. The pertinent infrastructure could benefit from the introduction of MR technology by modernizing existing industries and fostering the development of new ones in developing countries. Therefore, investment in MR technology offers a special chance to support the expansion and development of the construction sector in developing nations. However, there is a limited number of published studies on MR adoption in the context of the construction industry for developing economies which presents a gap in research.
To bridge this research gap, the current study highlights the key barriers and drivers for MR adoption in developing countries. It is important to identify the barriers and drivers of MR adoption in developing economies’ construction industry to move towards a more globally smart construction industry. It must be noted that MRTs in this study are limited to AR and VR only, and other supportive MRTs are not considered in this study. In this context, the use of the relative importance index (RII) technique is a good way to quantify and rank the relevant factors. It is encouraging to see that reduced project expense and knowledge are key drivers for MR adoption, which can help the construction industry of developing countries achieve better outcomes with less cost and time. The findings of this study can provide valuable insights for decision-makers in the relevant construction industry to adopt the latest tools and technologies and improve their overall efficiency and productivity.
2. Tools and Methods
Exploratory and mixed research methods are commonly used to investigate complex systems and associated phenomena. They allow for the collection and analysis of both qualitative and quantitative data [1
]. In the case of MR adoption in the construction industry, these methods are useful for exploring the perceptions and opinions of key stakeholders and identifying the influential factors. By combining qualitative and quantitative data analysis, researchers can gain a deeper understanding of the factors that contribute to the barriers to, and drivers of, MR adoption and provide valuable insights for decision-makers in the construction industry of developing countries. Accordingly, qualitative and quantitative data analysis techniques have been used in this study.
The initial stage of qualitative data analysis in this study involved identifying the barriers to the adoption of MR in construction projects by reviewing previous research papers. After gathering all relevant data, the barriers and drivers were analyzed to filter out those that pertained specifically to the construction industry and its projects. A total of thirty-seven barriers associated with the adoption of MR in construction projects were extracted from articles published worldwide. Table 1
shows the list of extracted barriers to MR adoption.
Similarly, published research articles were consulted to collect data on the drivers related to the adoption of MR in the construction industry. Forty-one drivers were extracted, which were specifically linked to construction projects. The list of drivers in the adoption of MR is presented in Table 2
2.1. Data Collection
A comprehensive questionnaire was developed for quantitative data collection that included three sections. The first section of the questionnaire asked respondents to provide information about their age, experience, company, company’s business, designation, education, and employment status. The second section of the questionnaire comprised the barriers to adopting MR in the construction industry, while the third section focused on the drivers for adopting MR in the construction industry.
Based on the extensive review of the published literature and data analysis, 37 barriers and 41 driving factors for the adoption of MR in construction projects were identified, as previously listed in Table 1
and Table 2
. The purpose of the questionnaire was to validate and quantify both sets of factors. The questionnaire used a ranking scale from 1 to 5 to code the responses of the participants, with rank 1 indicating the lowest importance (strongly disagree) and rank 5 indicating the highest importance (strongly agree). Respondents were asked to assign an importance value to each of the barriers and drivers.
The study utilized a representative sample of the construction industry population. Experts from engineering consultancies, design firms, construction companies, and technology development companies with a focus on MR were invited to participate in the survey. The respondents were selected from contractors, clients and authorized construction consultants involved in contract awarding activity. A total of 220 questionnaires were randomly distributed among the participants, including consultants, contractors, and clients. However, only 124 fully completed questionnaires were included in the final analysis, and incomplete questionnaires were discarded.
2.2. Assessment of Participant Profile
To ensure the data’s validity, the questionnaires included information about the participants’ profiles, such as their age group, experience level, company type, education level, and employment status. The age range of the participants in the data collection ranged from less than 20 to 41 years. The experience levels of the participants ranged from less than a year to 20 years. The educational levels of the participants ranged from Matriculation to Ph.D. The employment status field in the questionnaire included permanent, contractual, and temporary terms of employment.
The research aimed to identify the drivers of, and barriers to, adopting MR in the construction industry. The study reviewed relevant literature to determine key limitations and drivers. A survey questionnaire was then distributed to construction professionals in a developing country, and responses were recorded. Based on the RII values, the drivers and barriers were ranked.
The findings indicated that high capital costs, perceptions of MR being an immature technology, insufficient demand, lack of experts, and users’ health concerns are the primary limitations to adopting MR in developing countries’ construction industry. To overcome these limitations, R&D efforts should be focused on reducing the cost of devices. Additionally, advertising campaigns can promote the advantages of MR projects, and professional training programs can create employment opportunities related to these technologies.
The primary drivers in the adoption of MR were the improvement in understanding of projects, reduction in overall project spending, effective training, reduction in damage and development costs related to the project, and improved user experience. These results can be used to facilitate the adoption of MRTs in the construction industry of developing countries by promoting the drivers and curbing the barriers to moving towards a more digital and automated global construction industry.
This study has the following implications:
Stakeholders should prioritize efforts to reduce the cost of MR devices. This can be achieved through funding R&D in various universities and similar institutions.
MR devices should be tailored to meet the demands of the construction industry, which requires devices that can handle complex data for an extended period. Existing MR devices developed with a focus on developed countries may not be suitable for the construction industry of developing countries.
Advertisements should be launched to increase awareness of the advantages of MR in the construction industry.
Acquiring expertise and knowledge of MRTs should be facilitated in developing countries by establishing higher education programs in this technology in major universities. Additionally, R&D efforts in this subject should be increased to attract young talent in this field.
5.2. Limitations and Future Studies
This study has limitations as it involved professionals from a developing country with limited exposure to modern technologies. As a result, the findings may not be generalizable to developed countries where technology adoption may be different. However, researchers from other countries can use this study to gain insight into primary barriers and drivers and validate their findings. In addition, the current study only discusses the top 5 drivers and barriers. However, future studies can focus on each of the reported barriers and drivers and develop holistic adoption frameworks. Moreover, this study can also be used to identify regional differences in MR technology adoption. In addition, this study only focused on VR and AR as MRTs; future works may consider other supporting technologies and expand the scope to extended reality (XR).
Further research is necessary to address the limitations identified in this study and to facilitate the drivers for the adoption of MR in the construction industry. Additionally, future research can be conducted in other countries to compare the results with this study and to identify any cross-country differences in adopting this technology.