• Apoorv Verma

How Augmented Reality will completely morph the automotive industry?

Remember that friend of yours who is a Pokémon-Go fanatic and also dreams of incorporating the same technology while building the next Gigafactory? You are going to regret dismissing him, and his idea after reading this article. The technology which I am referring to is ‘Augmented Reality’.

It honestly is just a fancy-pants term for a relatively intuitive concept. You just superimpose digitally created 3-D imagery on everyday objects and utilities, and that too in real time. You are then able to ‘augment’ the tangible ‘reality’ by incorporating digitally produced attachments onto it; Hence, the term Augmented Reality. The short-form for it is AR, unsurprisingly.

Now the basic requirement for letting the below ideas assimilate in your head has been met with, how does AR make any relation with the dream of that friend of yours?

The ideas which are presented below are arranged to accommodate an ocean-like flow, ranging from how AR is useful in manufacturing a vehicle to how your driving skills will improve in quantum leaps, and how AR will eventually be able to save these puny lives of ours. Also, you will eventually realize that you have been living under a rock in a world which is slowly edging closer to developing a Jarvis, for every vehicle out there.

Firstly, let us realize how AR will exponentially increase the efficiency and reduce the time required to manufacture vehicles.

Imagine being an automobile-designer for a moment. You are sitting with your compatriots and brainstorming over new designs, and you get struck by a one-in-a-million idea, right out of the blue. But now you’ve got to make a clay model of it, depicting every edge of that design of yours, and in the process, you lose track of how the chassis will beautifully converge into the rear bumper. I am serious here, clay-modelling is heavily used in brainstorming and finalizing designs.

Now only if you were a designer in Ford, you would’ve been using Microsoft’s HoloLens, a holographic wireless headgear, with a built-in computer, which assists you in churning out designs and introduce changes to it. Now, you can stand around a basic skeleton of the car, which is made out of clay, with your designing team, while wearing these AR headsets. All of you will be connected to each other through the cloud, and will be able to incorporate changes onto that currently bland clay model, all that in real-time! Are the side-skirts too short? Just zoom-out with your fingers to elongate them. You’ll be able to incorporate changes with just a flick of your fingers and by waving your hands around!

But don’t get too jumpy at this prospect. Ford says that the clay-models are here to stay and the HoloLens will only be used where it can deliver concrete benefits, like in integrating those pesky engineering requirements, which will eventually ease down the work of all departments in the long run.

Now that you are done with the designing, let us move on to the assembly line. The basic chassis has been assembled by your automated friends down the corner, and the job which requires surgical precision is yours to do, which involves manual fitting of quintessential equipment. Now if you were to run into a rut, you will have no choice but to seek help from the technical leads which will halt production and leadingly waste industrial time.

The above wouldn’t have been a problem if you had RealWear’s HMT-1Z1 AR enabled headset. RealWear has developed headsets that incorporate all the hardware components to a pair of glasses attached to a helmet. The AR glasses resemble those safety helmets used in constructions sites while drawing some hints from Google Glass.

The concept behind the HMT-1Z1 is to enable the assembly line personnel with digital data from manuals and streaming tutorial clippings so that they won’t have problems in troubleshooting control systems.

For the geeks who wish to know the specs, here you go: At the heart of the HMT-1Z1’s system architecture is a 2.0 GHz, 8-core Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, included with the 14-nm Adreno 506 Graphics Processor Unit (GPU) for supporting high definition 1080p multimedia. The headset possesses four microphones which actively cancel disturbances and also have a voice recognition feature. Now assembly-line workers can easily transmit images of the issue at hand to the technical supervisors, thereby enabling them to suggest counter-measures by superimposing images and other projections of various equipment, all that in real time, and the issue at hand will be dealt with right then and there, saving invaluable industrial time.

Now, comes the universally dreaded aspect of the AR business, that is selling your brain-child, or your AR-child to the customers. The use of AR in here is surely questionable, but honestly, the way in which brands have exploited AR in this sector is truly ingenious.

Audi recently launched Audi City, in London, which happens to be the world’s first fully digitalized car-showroom, by intensively applying the recent developments in AR. In here, you will be able to fully customize your dream-ride! By waving your hands around the car, you can have a look at every nook and corner of your car and just by flicking your fingers around, you’ll be running through all the colour-variants available for it. It eerily resembles the interface of racing games like NFS and Asphalt.

Raju Sailopal, the Head of Sales at Audi City, London, claims that customers will also be able to hear how the engine of their ride sounds. Just the idea of being able to listen to your ride purring(virtually) should be giving all the grease-monkeys out there the wildest goosebumps!

But just when you thought that it can’t get any better, Hyundai, Jeep, and Volvo have recently begun to leverage AR insightfully, by creating digital showrooms which effectively tackle issues like shortage of space, real estate and maintenance costs, thereby enabling the customers to go through all available models effortlessly.

In fact, companies like Hyundai are minimizing the number of sales executives because they are bringing the cars to the customers and not the other way around. By tweaking around with the applications of AR, they are enabling the potential buyers to virtual test-drives and the option to breeze through all available variants at home, in real time.

The car has been sold, and now you will remember what I said at the beginning of this article and exclaim “Where in the world is Jarvis?”.

I got you covered. Every Jarvis is incomplete without AR based ‘Heads-Up Displays’, lovingly known as ‘HUDs’. These HUDs will transform automobile windscreens into large computer screens, non-intrusively displaying travel information—navigation directions, vehicle speed, weather information, live traffic data, and even collision warnings—directly superimposed in the driver’s line of vision.

Now, you can get the experience of being a fighter-jet pilot, with all the HUDs and other jargonish equipment, in fact, if you were on a long drive with your closest pals, you may communicate with them in military slang. Just don’t try the above with others, you’ll be deemed as a strange freak who happens to be home-alone, or drive-alone.

Readers who are inquisitive enough may have questioned the last line above. Communicating with strangers.

As out of the world that sounds, this factor holds the potential to reduce incidents of road-rage by an enormous amount! Consider this for a moment, you are rushing to the airport as you’ve been running late, and have no choice other than to cut people off in the drive-way to reach there in time. But this unsurprisingly will annoy other drivers and trigger them to confront you. But you have a vehicle which has the ability to transmit messages such as “Late to the airport, please give way”, which will pop up on their screens, informing them to keep an eye out. AR saves the day, yet again.

AR in automobiles could reach mainstream relevance with most consumers before AR headsets or smart-glasses. With cars, there's no cumbersome, head worn display to act as a hurdle to adoption, as content is projected directly onto windshields or dashboard-mounted displays and the issue of roaming around with a headset heavier than your dog is eliminated. Miniaturization of computing hardware is also not as big a concern with AR in cars as compared to the challenges of embedding the same technology in a pair of smart-glasses.

But don’t head out the door already with the claim that you own 10% of the factory of that friend of yours. Remember that AR is still at a very nascent stage in the development cycle. But the future implications of this technology happen to be literally endless and equivalently revolutionary.

Just try to imagine the ease of business, and a general sense of well-being AR will induce in the coming generations. I will leave it to you and your imagination to give you the chills, which you will surely get, once you let this concept germinate in your head.