Six European countries have created the LARA consortium that aims to combine precise location information using multiple satellite systems with virtual reality to create a handheld device that will show the location of buried infrastructure.
The hope is that LARA -- not yet a commercial product -- will be a handheld, low-cost mobile device that will enable field workers to 'see beneath the ground'.
It will combine information from multiple global navigation satellite systems -- Galileo and EGNOS and GPS-- with 3D geographic information system (GIS) technology, geospatial databases, computer graphics and augmented reality to create 3D models of underground water, gas, sewerage and electricity.networks GNSS technology includes Galileo and EGNOS as well as GPS.
The claim is that LARA will be able to deliver positioning accuracy to within a few centimetres. According to a May 2018 reporton Phys.org, the consortium behind LARA is performing minor improvements to enhance the system's usability and autonomy and is showcasing the technology to two major utility companies in France and the United Kingdom.
"Once the final prototype is completed, LARA's affordable and simple-to-use system is expected to have a significantly positive impact on the competitiveness of the European utility industry as well as equipment vendors," it says.
LARA now has its own website with a promotional video. However it has no information as to when the commercial product might be available. The most recent news item dates from November 2017 and announces: "It is a great honour to announce that our Horizon2020 project LARA, won the Madrid Challenge of the European Satellite Navigation Competition, ESNC 2017."
LARA is not the first attempt to use augmented reality to aid in the location of buried infrastructure.
In November 2014 in See buried infrastructure, with augmented realitywe anticipated the application of AR to underground utility location, asking “Can you imagine being able to look down to the ground at your feet and 'see' every bit of buried infrastructure, see whether it's a power cable, gas pipe or a sewer, and how deep it is?”
Just a few months later, in April 2015 inAugmented reality meets underground asset location we reported that augmented reality was becoming a reality, describing how Augview, an app for Android and iOS tablets and smartphones, superimposed images of underground assets on the image of a streetscape captured by the device's camera.
Nor is LARA the first attempt to provide precise location in a handheld device. In November 2017 we reported on a smartphone system from Trimble claiming centimetre accuracy. It is called Catalyst and it had just won the Supreme Excellence category at the 2017 NZ Spatial Excellence Awards.
The award judges said: “Out of all the entries, this promises to have the most impact. It stood out for its immense potential for delivering survey accurate measurement solutions using widely available mobile means - its professional and public reach, therefore, cannot be underestimated.”
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