Luxury automaker Mercedes-Benz has joined the growing list of automakers adopting augmented reality to provide an assist to its manufacturing operations, in this case, via the Microsoft HoloLens.
The company employs more than 100 HoloLens devices in its Mercedes-Benz Global Training program, where about 450 management, product, branding, and sales employees have access to the devices.
Through the HoloLens, participants are able to examine 3D models of vehicles, view the car's internal parts, and understand its complex systems in more detail. The device also gives them an opportunity to learn how to generally apply AR technology to their various job roles.
Communication and media studio IJsfontein showed off one of the training experiences via video. Built in collaboration Wegesrand Expert Network and Mercedes-Benz Global Training, the app enables customers to view the various features of a Mercedes-Benz A-Class in augmented reality.
"One of our participants, a sales professional, told us that HoloLens would allow him to need only one car in his showroom," said Ralf Krieger, a training coach at Mercedes-Benz Global Training, in a Microsoft blog post. "He envisioned using HoloLens in a way that his customers could touch the physical car, but also see, through mixed reality, how that same model would look if they wanted different components."
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In the post, Microsoft illustrates how adaptable AR can be across audiences. For example, Krieger's colleague, Walter Bauch, only began using a smartphone two years ago. Today, he uses the HoloLens to train his co-workers.
"People come in and hear my story. They realize: Here is this guy who never used a smartphone until two years ago and now he is using HoloLens in his job. People do not believe it," said Bauch. "This is the signal we send out to our visitors: It's not the age of the user that matters. This device is for people of all ages. Our oldest participant was 89. He attended with his 60-year-old son. I will never forget what he told us: 'I wish I'd had this technology when I was young and handsome.'"
While Mercedes-Benz is focusing on training with the HoloLens (and showroom experiences not unlike those used by Volvo), other automakers like Ford are using the device to improve engineering design processes while Renault Trucks has been using the technology to guide factory workers through complex processes. Elsewhere, Porsche is using Atheer AiR to assist mechanics with repairs.
Though the implementations across brands may vary, and mainstream consumers are still largely unfamiliar with devices like the HoloLens, the increasing adoption of augmented reality among automakers and other manufacturing industries demonstrates that businesses are already finding value and utility in the technology today, even if the rest of the public takes a few years to catch up.