Top 3 Applications for Wearable Technology and Augmented Reality in the Automotive Industry

Written BY

Randy Nunez

May 5, 2017

Written by Special Guest Blogger Randy Nunez, Tech Trend Lead, Extended Reality IT Enterprise Technology - Research, Ford Motor Company

As wearables become more pervasive in the consumer market, their use in the enterprise will also expand.  While wearable solutions such as fitness bands and smartwatches can be useful, I think that smart eyewear will have a greater impact in the business environment than for consumers.  Providing information on demand in a hands-free format is a powerful capability that smart eyewear brings to the workplace.Outlined here are what I consider the top three use cases for wearable technology/AR in the automotive industry.  In this case the target audience is the employee or contractor within the organization, so these use cases could apply to other industries as well.

Guided instructions

Adding digital or virtual content while in the real world to provide step-by-step instructions for procedures or workflows is a key use case.  This information could be as simple as text, images, or videos in monocular eyewear that is 'glanceable'.  In certain environments like the plant floor or a warehouse facility, having a less immersive solution, sometimes called assisted reality, enables the information to be provided while the wearer maintains awareness of the environment around them.   A more immersive solution, typically for more stationary activities, can use binocular eyewear and augmented or mixed reality.  This can provide a digital information overlaid over a real-world object or an 'underlay' which provides an x-ray-like view into parts and subsystems within a fully assembled product.  Some use case examples include parts picking, inspections, assembly/disassembly and repairs.

See-What-I-See/Remote expert

Using smart eyewear in conjunction with video/audio collaboration software can connect local users with remote experts to provide real-time guidance.  One advantage of smart eyewear is its hands-free nature that allows the local user to continue to work.  Some systems allow screen annotations to provide better visual clues for both parties. This could be low-tech, from marking up an image, to high-tech, which creates a 3D annotation in space that is locked in that position even if you change your view.  It has the potential to reduce travel and its associated expenses and decrease the time to resolve issues.  Some use case examples include facility or program launch/decommissioning and dealership service support.

Design visualization

Visual 3D representation of a vehicle design can include physical prototypes made of clay or wood.  This can be expensive and time-consuming to create and modify.  Virtual reality can be used as an effective immersion tool, but augmented reality can add yet another dimension of realism to the process.  A vehicle buck (physical mock-up) could be overlaid with digital content, allowing the comparison of various designs and enabling real-time changes in attributes (color, size, etc.).   Digital 'comments' from a reviewer could be recorded in audio and text formats and anchored in the exact 3D location for later reference.  Some use cases include the design process as well as during design reviews.While smart eyewear/AR technologies are still nascent, there is tremendous potential to change the way we work.  I also believe there are use cases for both monocular and binocular smart eyewear as well as the spectrum of augmented reality, from assisted to mixed.*Randy will be speaking on a panel discussion around the applications for smart glasses and other head-worn devices in enterprise on Thursday, May 11, 2017 at the Spring Enterprise Wearable Technology Summit 2017 in San Diego, CA.

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