Car repair and augmented reality may not seem like they go together, but the technology has been making maintenance easier for years.
Owning a car has always come with a lot of paperwork. Whether you are buying a car second (or third) hand, or driving one brand new from the dealership, there always seems to be a ream of papers as part of the price of purchase. One of the things contributing to the auto industry’s ongoing war on trees is the owner’s manual. Ranging up to several pages in length, the owner’s manual has long been one of those items a person might own but never read, intimidated by the complicated diagrams, small print, and obscure auto tech vocabulary.
This can, and has, led to many people handing the repair and maintenance of their vehicles over to other people, rather than trying to interpret the information for themselves. Even simple tasks like checking the oil, or changing the battery, can seem impossible when every car model can have a different configuration, and nothing seems to be labeled.
Enter AR. Augmented Reality has been around for several years now, and the technology is just starting to take off in terms of showing the huge range of tasks it can be applied to. One area that is beginning to gain interest, and could become even bigger in years to come, is that of auto repair and maintenance. AR apps use your phone’s camera and display to overlay information onto an image of the real world. When it comes to the complex inner workings of your car, AR can be a (literal) life-saver.
AR Repair Is Already Here
For certain car brands, and those willing to use apps in beta, AR-assisted car repair is already a reality. Here are some of the ways AR is coming to the auto repair industry.
Hyundai Virtual Guide
Hyundai is a brand associated with high tech and gadgetry. A long-time favorite of tech-enthused gear heads, Hyundai cars often come with all sorts of futuristic bells and whistles that make driving one a space-ship like experience. Now, that tradition of forward-looking technology extends to keeping your car in top shape.
The Hyundai Virtual Guide is an app that Hyundai model owners can download to their phone or other Android or Apple device to help them perform simple maintenance on their car, and provide general guidance and information about their vehicle. The app overlays labeled dots over a display of the interior of your car or your engine compartment. The user can then tap on any one of the dots to get further information, and view instructions for simple maintenance tasks like checking or changing the oil, or other engine fluids.
BMW Wearable Mechanic
Taking it one step further than Hyundai, BMW is currently working on a proprietary set of augmented reality goggles that will pair with the car you own to provide you with a number of AR-boosted super powers.
BMW claims that when the glasses exit development, you will be able to use them to see through your car to help you with maneuvering into a tight parking spot, or changing lanes on the highway. The glasses will also come with HUD, or heads-up-display, capabilities which will give you information in your field of vision, like your speed or alerts for phone calls or texts from your bluetooth-paired smartphone
The glasses will also include technology that will help you with common mechanical issues you might face as a car owner. The information will be displayed on the glasses and because each set will be paired with a particular car, the glasses will be able to do things like warn you about needing to change your oil, before guiding you step-by-step through the process, if you should so choose.
For car owners who aren’t in the Hyundai fold, the app I-Mechanic promises to offer the same type of assistance and information to a wider range of car models, including the Ford Fiesta.
Unlike the Hyundai Virtual Guide, the I-Mechanic offers more than just information on the location and function of the car’s various parts. Guided repair is built into the app, which will show you ghostly 3D arms and hands performing various simple repair tasks, so you can see exactly what needs to be done to get you back on the road in top shape.
Microsoft HoloLens and AR Repair
Microsoft is a giant in the tech world, but their foray into AR has thus far been on the tentative side. Their entry into the augmented reality gear landscape has been the HoloLens, a wearable set of goggles or glasses that will allow you to interact with their various apps and other Microsoft proprietary technology, like the XBox line of gaming consoles.
The HoloLens could revolutionize car repair because of its networking capabilities. Instead of simply having an app that instructs you about your repair tasks, the HoloLens could allow you to link virtually with an actual real life mechanic who could see what you’re looking at in real time and input instructions and advice into your field of vision, troubleshooting any problems that might arise.
Creating your own repair AR App with Apple ARKit
Another big name in technology which is starting to invest more heavily in AR and VR is Apple. The fact that so many people own Apple devices, including iPhones and iPads, means that any augmented reality software which Apple develops will have a huge potential market. Though they haven’t yet created a car repair specific app, the potential is certainly there.
This is especially true now that Apple has released their ARKit, an augmented reality development kit which promises to “allow hundreds of millions of iPhone and iPad users to experience AR on devices they already own,” rather than needing to invest in expensive new hardware. The ARKit was released at the 2017 World Wide Developers conference, and promises to boost the augmented reality market by putting the power to create AR apps and experiences in the hands of users.
The development kit means that anyone with the drive to do so could create their own augmented reality app to help with car repairs. In the future, when you buy a new car and are baffled by what’s going on under the hood, you could got to the app store of your phone to look for a mobile mechanic, created by fellow car owners, to help you get comfortable with maintaining your vehicle. This sort of empowerment can only make for better drivers and safer roads for everyone.
The Future of Car AR
Looking to the future, augmented reality is something that’s swiftly becoming a tool every person could use to make their lives better. From entertainment to simplifying complex tasks, AR has a lot of potential, and with tools like the ARKit, we can all create the technology we need for our own lives.