How Augmented Reality generates multiple added value for the automotive industry
Augmented Reality (AR) combines reality with digital content. Of course, the technology can do much more than send smartphone users on a virtual monster hunt, as with Pokémon Go. In the automotive industry, AR provides more efficiency and new possibilities in almost every area. You can read exactly what these are in this blog post.
The "augmented reality" visible through displays or special glasses is not a completely new technology. The Salzburg-based startup Wikitude launched its first AR app for mobile phones in 2008. Augmented Reality only became known to a wider audience with the game Pokémon Go in 2016. The game also made adults stagger through the streets with their eyes fixed on the smartphone display in order to hunt virtual monsters. In some places, public life came to a standstill due to the mass rush of players. In the summer of 2016, for example, the Lord Mayor of Düsseldorf was forced to close the Giradet Bridge to car traffic.
Car designers are pioneers in AR application
However, this is only one of very few examples in which Augmented Reality or Virtual Reality (VR) has proven to be a hurdle for cars. The technology is the exact opposite. It offers automobile designers in almost all areas promising opportunities to make their business more efficient and cost-effective. The automotive sector is already making intensive use of these opportunities and, at least in Germany, is considered to be the sector that has already made the most progress with the digitization of its processes. As early as 2011, the Head of Engineering IT at Daimler AG, Prof. Alfred Katzenbach, told Virtual Reality Magazine: "So we use VR solutions throughout the entire process chain, from design to construction, simulation and presentation of the calculation results, ergonomics, production, sales and marketing.
The automotive industry uses AR in these 7 areas
Typically, AR and the associated hardware such as data glasses or tablets and smartphones can be used in the following areas of the automotive industry:
1) Development of new products
The ability to combine reality with digital content makes it much easier to design new models, especially in automotive engineering. With AR, it is no longer necessary to produce new models or variants by hand. With AR it is possible to display different designs, shapes and colours. At Mercedes, engineers can virtually integrate different engine variants into a chassis using AR. This simulation shows whether an engine still to be designed also fits into the engine compartment of an existing car. This saves time and development costs.
2) Planning of production plants
When planning production capacities, AR can save a lot of time and money. With the aid of augmented reality, new machines as well as buildings can be faded into existing production halls. Material flows and production processes can also be simulated and optimized virtually in four dimensions - remotely. This means, for example, that experts do not have to travel to an existing plant to plan its expansion. They can do this from their desk using AR and call in other experts as needed.
3) Produce more accurately and better
Manufacturing involves assembling hundreds or thousands of individual components correctly and as quickly as possible in a precisely coordinated sequence. Each new product requires new assembly instructions, which are usually available as a static document or PDF file. The assembly workers must therefore work through these documents precisely during production. Using AR, the instructions can be projected onto displays or data glasses and the user can control them freehand and speech-based. AR thus functions as a "third hand", so to speak. Or the system is structured in such a way that it shows the user the next work step in a context-related way. BMW uses AR for stud welding, for example, to build prototypes: The welding machine is equipped with infrared LEDs and is tracked with an optical tracking system. The AR visualization leads the employee to the target point and he can complete the welding much faster.
4) Quality improvement and assurance
Because AR can display individual production steps, workflows or tutorials not only in multimedia but also in context, new employees can be trained faster than with the conventional, document-based method. Knowledge available in the workforce can be distributed very easily using telepresence: This means that one employee can help another to solve a problem without being on site. With AR, both have the problem in front of them. One because he is sitting or standing directly in front of the workpiece and the other because he has the same image displayed on a screen through his colleague's data glasses. The helper can now project concrete instructions and additional information into the data glasses of the colleague on site and thus virtually take him by the hand.
But because AR can also be used to track production processes and deviations, errors can be detected and corrected much more quickly. This makes quality assurance much more effective.
5) Easier maintenance and faster after-sales service
As described earlier, AR makes individual work steps easier because it can provide contextual guidance. Simple tasks, such as an oil change, could then be carried out by the car user himself and no longer have to drive to the workshop. But AR can also be a valuable help to the mechanics in the workshop: The employee points the camera of a tablet at the engine and defective parts are marked in one colour. At the same time, the numbers of the parts to be replaced are also displayed on the screen. If these are then available, AR helps the mechanic with the installation by showing context-related installation instructions on the display. All in all, AR makes service and maintenance easier and faster.
6) Individualization of the cockpit
In the finished product Auto AR can provide completely new features. Of course, the use of displays as display surfaces is limited and the use of smartphones and data glasses is taboo. After all, the driver should still have a clear view of what is happening on the road in front of him. Head-up displays already solve this problem today: they project important driving information directly onto the windshield. The Swiss startup Wayray in turn conjures up a holographic navigation system in front of the driver's eyes. The driver can, of course, determine beforehand which information he sees directly in front of him. With the further development of Smart Glass, the possibilities of AR in the passenger car cockpit can of course be considerably expanded. It will be interesting to see what the car designers will come up with on the subject of "virtual Windscreen".
7) AR brings more emotions to car advertising
The enlarged reality not only enriches the production of automobiles, it also enriches their marketing considerably. This is because the "car experience" can be transported much more directly to the customer with the help of augmented reality. A simple QR or bar code in the printed brochure allows the model advertised there to appear directly on the smartphone or mobile phone display. The customer can then browse through all possible equipment variants and colours virtually. A simple pair of VR glasses, which can also be made of cardboard, then takes the prospective customer on a virtual test drive with the desired model. During this jaunt, a spokesperson as well as information displayed informs the user about the features and advantages of the special model. Mercedes Benz, for example, used a 3D augmented reality app and a virtual reality set with data glasses to strengthen digital sales for the market launch of the new A-Class.
Conclusion: How Augmented Reality generates multiple added value for the automotive industry
Strictly speaking, augmented reality turns people into cyborgs. This may sound a bit thick, but it's true: Because technology makes it possible to have more than just pure reality in one's field of vision. This expansion of human capabilities by supporting machines that display additional information pays off in many areas. The automotive industry is one of the first to take advantage of the many new opportunities. Increased efficiency, better and more individual products and new ways of addressing customers are advantages that the industry is already benefiting from. What remains exciting is what new perspectives AR still opens up for the automotive industry.
Born and raised in Vienna. Since 2012 she has been in charge of Business Development at LEAD Innovation with the functions marketing, sales and communication.