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BMW studies virtual reality system for servicing instructions

The BMW Group announced at Frankfurt that it is studying a technology “able to truly expand the real world”: Augmented Reality. Wearing data glasses, the user is able to perceive virtual objects and presentations superimposed on the "real" environment around him.

Geared to his actual vision, the user of such data glasses receives additional three-dimensional information providing helpful support and assistance. A possible application is the presentation of repair instructions for an engine, enabling the mechanic wearing data glasses to see, first, the actual engine and, second, virtually animated tools, components, markings or instructions. Such superimposed virtual information thus guides the mechanic through the complete repair process.

The data itself is provided by a computer connected to the data glasses. While this connection is provided today by a data transmission cable, wireless technologies will be used for this purpose in future.

BMW says repair manuals animated by Augmented Reality make it much easier to explain the various steps and phases of a particular job or process. Focusing on appropriate marks on the actual components, the data glasses recognise the current surroundings, presenting virtual instructions on the surroundings to the observer after each step or job. Further convenience in interacting with the system is provided by voice control enabling the user to call up the virtual information he wishes to receive most conveniently via his data glasses.

The transfer of information by Augmented Reality is claimed to offer decisive advantages in service, particularly at a time of growing diversity and complexity within the BMW model range:

- All information can be retrieved at any time directly on the vehicle or the appropriate component in a mobile process.

- Provision of information virtually without any texts during the repair process saves valuable time.

- The user is able to keep his hands free for working.

The BMW Group is studying Augmented Reality together with partners in research and industry. A field test planned for the near future in a number of workshops is intended to provide new experience and information on the series use of Augmented Reality on a broad scale, the applications involved covering both diagnostics and repair work. In this process the repair manual provides detailed information on the removal and disassembly of components and informs the user at the same time how to re-assemble stripped or new parts.

The next steps in BMW's development of Augmented Reality will seek to identify the surroundings seen by the observer without the use of special markers and codes. This will allow the user wearing data glasses to see his surroundings clearly without having to mark all the components in advance.

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