The Journey Continues – Augmented Reality Beyond Smartphones

Posted by on September 21, 2020


When Trimble first began looking at Augmented Reality (AR) back in 1998 we saw the value of Augmented Reality to provide a simple contextual understanding that would improve collaboration and productivity.

However, the component technologies to support AR were in their infancy. Fast forward to 2016/2017 and smartphone manufacturers were releasing AR capable devices for the consumer market. These became the enabler for developing SiteVision where Trimble integrated high accuracy GNSS with the smartphone AR capabilities to deliver the lightweight, handheld SiteVision system. SiteVision, operating on smartphones, is affordable and easy to use.

Consumer technology is great but has limitations.
Smartphone augmented reality technology has been developed using visual odometry which depends on good lighting and contrast in the camera view. This is required to track definable images across the screen to determine the camera position and orientate the AR model in the camera view. This limits smartphone AR to daytime operations when working outdoors.

Smartphones are suitable for most outdoor operating environments, with many phones having rugged case options and more recently good IP rating for waterproofness, but their specifications are typically for operation in temperatures from 0 to +35 degrees C.

For many users there are business needs to operate across a broader spectrum of weather. From sub-zero temperatures in winter to the heat of summer, above the smartphone environmental limits, and at all times of the day and night for construction. Night operations pose a challenge for the smartphone AR technology using visual odometry. which depends on good lighting and contrast in the image to function. This affects and limits the use of Smartphone AR in outdoor environments at night, and to a lesser extent in high traffic areas in the daytime.

An additional challenge for some users is the need to work on development projects in remote locations with no cellular or wi-fi coverage or to connect to a local base station using radios for GNSS corrections.

SiteVision is now available on the Trimble TSC7 and Trimble T7 with Trimble AR Ready receivers

To overcome these limitations Trimble has developed the Trimble Precision AR technology. Trimble Precision AR technology uses a family of Trimble AR ready receivers – the R12i for Professional Surveyors and the SPS986 for Construction Surveyors. These receivers have incorporated inertial sensors whose measurements are integrated with GNSS to deliver high accuracy position and orientation (POSE). As well as enabling the Trimble PrecisionAR technology these sensors enable the Trimble TIP technology that allows the range pole to be used without the need to be held vertical, significantly increasing the productivity of survey and grade checking operations, and supporting AR viewing of features like manholes close to the operator.


The Trimble Precision AR technology is available on Trimble’s rugged field computers including the TSC7 controller for customers who like a dedicated keypad and the T7 rugged tablet. Both devices offer large, daylight readable 7” screens, are rugged and waterproof, and operate over a much broader temperature range than the smartphone consumer devices.

Trimble has now released SiteVision for Windows, running on the TSC7 and T7 controllers, using the Trimble AR technology from our AR ready receivers. This combination brings a host of benefits including:

  1. Works where you do, from sub-zero winter temperatures to the full heat of summer
  2. Works with Trimble’s most accurate GNSS receivers
  3. Operates on the large 7” screen in full daylight conditions
  4. Operates at night, providing AR capabilities for road construction projects that frequently involve night operations
  5. The AR model can be aligned with the real world in tight spaces
  6. Improved stability and accuracy in the placement and visualization of models outdoors
  7. Visible model orientation accuracy indicator to let you know how well the AR model is aligned

SiteVision TSC7 and T7 controllers

With SiteVision running on the standard Survey equipment high accuracy AR capabilities are now available for Surveyors and Site Engineers for tasks such as visualizing locations of underground services, identifying and communicating property boundaries, and collaborating with clients, without the need for any additional equipment.



Visualizing property lines on the TSC7


SiteVision TSC7

The large 7” screen makes sharing easy.


AR for site surveyors

With SiteVision’s availability across the range of platforms site engineers and surveyors can share and visualize a common AR model using the platform of their choice.

SiteVision hardware options:

Features Smartphone Trimble Devices
sitevision for smartphones
Augmented reality technology Google Play services for AR using visual odometry Trimble AR technology using tightly integrated GNSS and inertial navigation systems (INS)
Works at night No Yes
Form factor Handheld or pole mounted Range pole mounted
Operating temperature range 0C to +35C -30C to +60C
Environmental IP65 IP67
Screen size Varies by phone 7″ Screen
Screen area Typically 100-110 sq cm phone 142 sq cm
Weight <800gms (1.8 lbs)
SiteVision Integrated Positioning System with Samsung S20 Plus
3.95 kg (8.7 lbs)
R12i with TSC7, range pole and bracket
Controller options User-provided Google Play compatible smartphone TSC7 controller or Trimble T7 tablet
Operating system Android 9 or above Windows 10
GNSS Trimble Catalyst Trimble R12i or SPS 986
Integrated electronic distance measurement Yes No
Correction sources
  • Trimble Corrections Hub
  • Trimble VRSNow
  • Trimble RTX


With the flexibility of running SiteVision on smartphones or on Trimble rugged hardware augmented reality technology is now available to the widest range of users in a form factor that suits their individual needs and preferences. For professional surveyors, site supervisors, and grade checkers who use Trimble GNSS systems today, they can subscribe to the SiteVision application and run it on the same hardware they use for their daily work. For the Engineer, Architect, or Landscape Architect who will use AR for client engagement, public engagement, inspection, and collaboration the lightweight handheld form factor using their existing smartphone provides a convenient and inexpensive option. Either way, the journey continues with high accuracy outdoor augmented reality available to everyone.

Want to learn more about SiteVision for surveyors, click here >




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