New Manual Transmission: Creating an Augmented Reality Car Owner’s Guide

"Engine_Cut-away_SEMA2010", Image by Automotive Rythms

“Engine_Cut-away_SEMA2010”, Image by Automotive Rythms

Like most training and support documentation, car owner’s manuals are usually only consulted when something goes wrong with a vehicle. Some people look through them after they purchase a new ride, but usually their pages are about as interesting to read as watching paint dry on the wall. Does anyone really care about spending much quality time immersed in the scintillating details of how the transmission works unless you really must?

Not unsurprisingly, the results of a Google search on “car owner’s manuals” were, well, manifold as there exists numerous free sites online that contain deep and wide digital repositories of this highly detailed and exhaust-ively diagrammed support.

Now comes news that the prosaic car owner’s manual has been transformed into something entirely new with its transposition into an augmented reality (AR) application. This was the subject of a fascinating report on CNET.com on November 10, 2015 entitled Hyundai Unveils an Augmented-Reality Owner’s Manual by Andrew Krok. I will summarize and annotate it, and then pose a clutch of my own questions.

As well, the press release from the auto manufacturer entitled Hyundai Virtual Guide Introduces Augmented Reality to the Owner’s Manual was also released on November 10th. Both links contain photos of the app being used on a tablet. It can also be seen in operation in this brief video on YouTube. (Furthermore, these eleven Subway Fold posts have recently covered a range of the latest developments and application concerning augmented reality in other fields.)

Adding an entirely new meaning to the term “mobile” app, it is officially called the Hyundai Virtual Guide and can be used on a smartphone or tablet. It will soon be available for downloading on both Google Play and Apple’s App Store. It compresses “hundreds of pages of information” into the app and, in conjunction with the owner’s mobile device’s camera, can recognize dozens of features and several basic maintenance operations. This includes 82 videos and 50 more informational guides. Its equivalent, if traditionally formatted on paper, would be hundreds of pages.

The augmented reality implementation in the app consists of six 3D images. When the user scans his or her mobile over a component of the car such as the engine or dashboard, the screen image will be enhanced with additional “relevant information”. Another example is pointing the mobile’s camera and then clicking on “Engine Oil”, which is then followed by instructions on how to use the dipstick to check the oil level.

To start off, the app will only be available at first for the 2015 Hyundai Sonata model. Other models will later be made compatible with the app.

Hyundai chose which systems of the car to include in the app by surveying buyers on “the most difficult features to figure out”. Because everyone today is so accustomed to accessing information on a screen, the company determined that this was among the best ways to inform buyers about their new Sonatas.

The company has previously created other virtual means to access some of their other manuals. These have included an iPad configured with the owner’s manual of their Equus sedan and another app that displays the manual inside the passenger compartment on the “infotainment system’s touchscreen”.

My questions are as follows:

  • While this AR app is intended for consumers, is Hyundai considering extending the scope of this development to engineer a more detailed and sophisticated app for car dealers and service stations for maintenance and repairs?
  • Could an AR app make the process of yearly state car inspections faster and more economical?
  • Are the heads-up displays that project some of the dashboard’s information into the lower part of the windshield for drivers to see in some production models another form of automotive AR that could somehow be used together with the new AR manual app?
  • Would other consumer products such as, among others, electronics and recreational equipment benefit from AR manuals?
  • Just as we now see traditional car owner’s manuals gathered, cataloged and accessed online as described above, will future automotive AR apps similarly be imported into dedicated online libraries?
  • What entrepreneurial opportunities might be forming in the design, production and implementation of AR manuals and other automotive AR apps?
  • Could other important personal items such as prescription drug packaging benefit from an AR app because so few people every read the literature accompanying their medicines? In other words, would an AR app increase the probability that important information on dosages and potential adverse reactions will be read because of the more engaging and interactive format?

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