• Ford South Africa is adopting Augmented Reality at dealership level.
• The technology will aid in the servicing of vehicles.
• Ford says it will modernise the way technicians complete complex repair jobs.
• For more motoring stories, go to Wheels24
A Ford technician near me stares into the depths of the Everest's bonnet, his eyes switching from side to side with cool concentration, and he's listening intently, but to what and to whom? He appears alone, yet his hands are being instructed by another voice and another set of eyes.
The sequence of repairs happening before us at Ford's Training Centre in Silverton are all extremely normal on the surface yet strange and unfamiliar at the same time.
The clue behind this reframed reality is the thin black band around his head, and a small sensor positioned a few inches away from his one eye - Augmented Reality!
Ford is embracing this cutting-edge technology to help modernise the way, and speed, that technicians can perform complex repair jobs. Equipped with high-resolution video cameras, a flashlight as well as an array of microphones, the RealWear HMT-1 Hands-free Remote Collaboration Tool makes it possible for any Ford technician to receive specialised real-time assistance, from anywhere in the world, within a matter of minutes.
Before this revolutionary technology, a dealer would typically be required to wait for a field service engineer to be sent out to assist, a situation that is not only costly when multiplied across Ford's vast network of dealers, but also causes frustrating delays and bottlenecks. In contrast, RealWear allows the repair process to happen more efficiently while creating a better customer experience.
RealWear is not to be confused with a form of Virtual Reality. Instead, it incorporates advanced Augmented Reality and allows additional images, texts, or cursor movements to be placed in a portion of the technician's field of view with minimal obstruction to his peripheral vision. This means that he's still able to perform normal tasks but can now diagnose issues at greater speed and more accurately.
Even complex elements like wiring diagrams can be displayed through the RealWear device, except with the ability to zoom in and out or pinpoint certain areas; they're far more interactive than they've ever been.
After a quick demonstration, we were handed the opportunity to experience this intuitive technology. The first thing one notices is just how light and evenly balanced the device is, which quickly translates into comfort. It's hardly any different to walking around with a baseball cap on. Running Android software also gives it a range of functionality that, with the help of voice recognition, feels natural and responsive.
Commands like "zoom in" or "open file" leave your hands free, and because you're always aware of your surroundings, there's no motion sickness. The battery, processors and storage are also snugly packaged, negating the need for auxiliary systems.
Once you've sampled the technology, it's almost impossible to think of a reason not to use it, and that's exactly why Ford will be expanding the technology through more remote dealerships and eventually into Sub-Saharan Africa.