AUBURN HILLS, MI – Augmented reality can be useful technology for navigation, space exploration, kinematics research and the battlefield, and contact lenses using it are in development as well.
As early as next year, mechanics at car dealership may benefit from AR, which generates a live view of a real-world environment that is supplemented with computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data. Consider AR an advancement beyond virtual reality, which replaces the physical world with a simulated one.
During a recent event at its offices here, German supplier Continental displays its Connected Technician solution, which is a tablet application that connects to a vehicle wirelessly and coaches the mechanic step-by-step through the entire process of diagnosing the problem and then fixing it.
A wireless dongle connected to the vehicle’s on-board diagnostics (OBD II) port will allow a mechanic with a properly equipped tablet to communicate directly with the vehicle and conduct a series of automated tests to pinpoint the source of the problem and the exact tool necessary for the job.
“With augmented reality, I can show you where the part is and give step-by-step instructions so you’re not going back and forth to the service manual and trying to understand the picture,” says Tejas Desai, Continental’s head of interior electronics solutions-North America.
The tablet draws its information about the vehicle from the cloud. “It’s the service manual with a higher level of intelligence,” Desai says. “Whatever my tablet camera sees, I can relate that together to highlight what (the mechanic) should do next, how much torque to use. But more importantly, we can highlight exactly which bolt it is that needs to be tightened.”
Desai says he expects the AR diagnostic tool to appear in garages in late 2016. He declines to identify the first customer.
Before the system is fully functional, Continental will need to work with automakers in gathering computer-aided-design data files of vehicles so the information is accessible through tablets.
The system should improve documentation of work done on vehicles, and that information can be shared with other dealers and the automaker, resulting in better tracking of warranty problems, potentially reducing costs, as well as headaches for consumers.
The system is designed to save time for mechanics and allow them to order necessary parts via the tablet.
Desai says the device will be particularly useful for fixing engines and for other tricky repairs, such as replacing an air-conditioning motor.
“We could show you how to take the dashboard apart, highlight the part before you actually get to the part, and then you could see inside the dash, where the part is,” he says.
Another benefit of this technology: It’s so intelligent that lower-skilled mechanics can use the system and make repairs that normally would require a more senior technician.
“For the consumer, I can show them, ‘Here’s what the car is saying. This is the part the car says is bad,’” Desai says. “It means more to the consumer when they can see it in hand. It means more real-time information on the spot.”