Is Augmented Reality the Future of Automotive?
Tier10 | On 12, Jun 2019
Marketing takes on so many different shapes today – word of mouth, print, online, radio, television. And today’s savvy marketers know innovative marketing methods evolve on a daily basis. This is especially true with augmented reality.
The Difference Between Mixed, Virtual, and Augmented Realities
You’ve probably heard the terms virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) before. Maybe you’ve even heard about mixed reality (MR). But is there a difference, or can you use these terms interchangeably?
There’s a definite difference.
In VR, you use a headset coupled with a device, such as your smartphone or a gaming console, to immerse yourself in an artificial digital world. In AR, you’re surrounded by the real world, but virtual objects are overlaid, such as a chair in the corner of your living room, or a bright yellow paint on your kitchen walls. As the name suggests, MR mixes VR and AR, and virtually anchors objects to your real-world surroundings.
Marketing With Augmented Reality – How Popular Is It?
Some might say augmented reality is a mere novelty. But companies that have implemented it and seen the incredible results say AR is soon to become mainstream.
Several companies in all fields have used AR in some form, and some are actually pretty creative with it. Remember Pokémon Go? Sure, the novelty might wear off, but the sheer amount of users in May 2018 was a clear illustration of just how powerful this marketing technique can be.
Speaking of powerful marketing, at some point in your television watching you’ve probably stumbled across “The Walking Dead.” Love it or hate it, it’s become practically a household name in the world of zombie shows. In The Walking Dead: Our World, instead of catching Pokémon, it’s a battle for survival, but in familiar surroundings. In TWD’s AR app, zombies have taken over the neighborhood – your neighborhood. You may even discover zombies in your home!
Do you enjoy nature? The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) designed the Free Rivers App, an AR app that immerses you in pristine environments. It’s not just about the beauty, though. The app teaches you about the environment and how it is being impacted. You’ll learn not only about various landscapes around the world but also about the people who call those places home.
After downloading the app on your smartphone, you direct your phone’s camera at a flat surface (kitchen table works great) and an entire region appears. You can explore the landscape and even zoom in on areas of particular interest – all the while learning about the place. You can tap on different elements to open new information and as you learn you can move up levels that unlock new places. This isn’t just a creative and fun application of AR technology, but also a great way to learn – and you discover all the good the WWF does in the world.
Automakers are using AR in some pretty creative ways, too. Buying a car is an intimate decision. Imagine building a car from scratch with all the bells and whistles. Wonder what it would look like sitting in your driveway? How it would feel to drive it? Jaguar created an AR app for their Land Rover in 2017 that allowed customers to customize the Land Rover – features, colors, and more – and then test drive it from the comfort of their smartphone. Hyundai followed suit, creating an in-store app that allows customers to see the inner guts of the car to make a more informed purchase.
As these examples show, the tools are there. It’s an impressive marketing ploy – but why does it seem like the technology is only being half applied? With such potential, couldn’t companies use AR in many more technological applications? How about applying AR to the automotive world?
How Manufacturers Use Augmented Reality in Vehicle Production
People might not be ready for technology such as augmented reality, but that’s not stopping manufacturers.
Many car makers are eager to put AR to use due to its many production benefits. The expectation is that companies will use AR widely in the manufacturing process – and in sales. There’s no escaping it. AR has extreme potential for the automotive world, from design to production and beyond.
Ford’s designers at one time used modeling clay to design the prototypes for their new vehicles. Today, this car company is using AR to design three-dimensional models. The use of AR is less time-consuming and allows for faster adaptability. Microsoft’s HoloLens, a mixed, holographic reality, allows Ford’s designers to quickly make changes and to see those changes on a physical vehicle. This forward-thinking use of the technology allows the designers to recognize potential issues before they move forward with labor-intensive prototypes. Imagine the cost savings.
Putting a vehicle together involves assembling thousands of parts and pieces. Of course, the advent of the automated production line advanced the industry. But the auto industry still needs human eyes and hands to create the finished product.
Volvo, for example, is also using the HoloLens to allow its production workers to view digital assembly instructions as the vehicle moves down the line. Workers can also access videos from the previous production worker that completed the project. This means employees no longer have to stop to ask questions during a build. They can maintain a smooth flow of work on the production line, thereby increasing the rate of output.
And it’s no secret that the machines that complete vehicle production need to be kept in working order. With the assistance of Mitsubishi’s AR glasses, maintenance personnel can pull up the correct repair manual for any routine repairs that they must perform on manufacturing equipment. This enhances the safety and the efficiency of maintenance.
Does Augmented Reality Factor Into Automation in the Automotive World?
The goal of AR for the automotive world is to allow humans the ability to interact in the process of assembly with assistive technology. You might wonder then how the use of AR parallels production automation advancements, such as machine learning. Sure, it appears that these two technologies are in competition, but that’s not actually a bad thing.
Thanks to machine learning, automation continues to grow more intelligent, aiding efficiency and providing many benefits to the manufacturing process. You’ve no doubt heard or maybe even experienced the sentiment that robots are replacing humans in several sectors. In reality, AR allows humans to collaborate with this type of technology, increasing human efficiency. Using tools such as the Internet of Things (IoT), production and assembly workers can now have more information in front of their eyes – much like an intelligent machine. This means humans are leveraging their positions. You can use the IoT the same way a robot would. But you can interact in the manufacturing process in a way that robots perhaps cannot. In other words, using AR hand in hand with automation could be more beneficial to the production process than using one technology alone.
Projected Trends for AR in the Automotive Market
When it comes to projections regarding AR, the industry has done a lot of research to ascertain just what the future is for this market. The outcome?
Figures vary depending on the research firm and the segment they measure. But the figures all point to the same thing: exceptional growth.
- BusinessWire — $60 billion by the year 2023 with a growth rate of 40.29%
- GrandViewResearch — $100 billion by 2024
- Consultancy.uk — $161 billion with a growth rate of 85.4%
Check out these other predictions of worth and growth rates of AR.
While Tesla has certainly made a push for it in recent years, cars that can drive themselves might take a bit more time to see the open road. At the same time, though, AR technologies are in use by several automotive manufacturers. In fact, the auto industry is one of the few industries for which AR has a strong, stable market. For instance, 2019 is set to be the year of voice-assisted technological advancements, such as Siri, as well as AR in-car.
Advancements such as graphics displays on the car’s dashboard or within the windshield can help reduce accidents. They can point out potential upcoming hazards, lanes used most frequently, navigation, and so on. AR can even assist on the family vacation by pointing out historical landmarks in your travels.
By implementing AR technologies, car companies will make roads safer. At least that’s the direction. By allowing drivers to maintain eye contact with the road at all times, AR can improve drivers’ safety and comfort, reducing stress.
Vehicle companies such as Tesla and Volvo already have signed contracts for AR platforms.
What’s the Future Potential of AR in the Auto Industry?
If you’ve ever interacted with an AR application, you’ve seen how it can influence the world around you in a positive manner – text and graphics, sounds and feedback. Up till now, you might have experienced AR only through an application on your smartphone. But the automotive industry has taken AR a few steps further with these key aspects:
- Reflection mirrors
- Head-up displays
On a vehicle that comes with AR technology, sensors and cameras work together by scanning the physical space around the vehicle and the objects within that space. Simultaneous Localization and Mapping (SLAM) technology determines the distance from the vehicle to other objects.
The vehicle’s AR device functions as a small computer that accurately processes the information that it receives from the sensors and cameras. The AR device includes such items as:
- Central processing unit (CPU)
- Flash memory
- Random access memory (RAM)
- Bluetooth and Wi-Fi capabilities
- Global positioning services (GPS)
AR devices like the aforementioned HoloLens use Microsoft’s proprietary Holographic Processing Unit, or HPU. They also use a unit that tallies inertia with an embedded accelerometer, gyroscope, and magnetometer.
The projector then sends all of the data to the surface of the AR headset or glasses. Next, the reflection mirrors reflect the light coming into the camera with the driver’s eye to create a perfectly aligned image.
Depending on the exact use by an auto manufacturer, there are a variety of ways a company can apply AR technology. One example is the head-up display on the vehicle’s windshield. Augmented navigational hints display on the windshield, such as upcoming road signs or warnings.
Right now, you probably use some form of a navigational app on your smartphone. But imagine if your directions were displayed in front of you, allowing you to keep your eyes on the road?
Is Augmented Reality the Future of the Automotive Industry?
As you can see, augmented reality has already streamlined production and manufacturing, reducing costs and shortening turnaround time. Many are excited about the prospects AR holds for the industry, as well as for consumers. But this technology is still in its infancy.
With more and more companies collaborating, visualizing data and production information will serve to further enhance the application of AR tech in vehicles. The more companies are able to prove the usefulness of the application, the more products (aside from just vehicles) are set to benefit.
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