Augmented Reality from the OEM

By August 23, 2018 No Comments
Grain bins showing augmented reality in agriculture or mobile machines

Technology that can powerfully and quickly enhance the Sales, Operation and Service of Off-Road equipment in all industries.

Mobile applications providing Augmented Reality (AR) offer equipment manufacturers a fertile platform to improve their customers’ overall experience in the operation, servicing and sales of their equipment while distinguishing themselves from their competition. At JCA Electronics, we have begun working with leading manufacturers to implement AR based software. We summarize potential current applications as well as future opportunities.

As equipment manufacturers of mobile machinery are challenged to keep up with the pace of innovation expected by their users, more are seeking to provide these improvements in overall customer experience through smartphone and tablet apps that support AR.

Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality, brought to public awareness through the popular Smart Device game Pokemon Go, is a technique of improving or adding to a user’s experience by overlaying a layer of relevant information over a displayed image or live video. Pokemon Go incorporated current GPS location information into the key interactions that make up the global game.

There are many such AR based apps, both games and utilities, found in the Apple and Google app stores.  Take for example a tourist centered app that overlays what a historic ruin at a destination might have looked like to interested users, or an app that overlays star charts on a screen when a user holds up their phone to the night sky so that astronomical objects could be easily identified and information about that object can be shared.

These apps improve a user’s experience by un-intrusively providing a piece of information quickly and intuitively when they are seeking that information. This mode of operation provides innovative equipment manufacturers fruitful opportunities to improve their users’ experience – enhancing the initial training, servicing or sales of their equipment.

Supplement Operator Manuals

One of the most promising areas for equipment manufacturers is the supplementation of traditional operators manuals with an AR enabled app. Equipment manufacturers can publish AR enabled apps that supplement information found in an operator manual in a more convenient, interactive and intuitive way. The operator would use the OEMs app and point the camera of their smartphone or tablet to the relevant piece of equipment, and the sought-after information would be over-laid over the part of the equipment being focused on. Because of the availability of a user’s smartphone, the AR app is convenient and can visualize complex operations to ensure understanding.

AR would allow the clear communication of exactly what the operator needs to know about the equipment. The usefulness of such an app can be appreciated when one considers that a piece of equipment may have multiple operators and proper training is required to ensure both the proper operation and maintenance of the equipment. A piece of equipment like a grain extractor, where the correct operation requires the use of numerous controls, can be conveyed easily in a video over laid on the image of the live equipment.

OEMs can also send updates of the app to suggest best practices for their equipment over the lifecycle of a product release. The logic built into the app can allow an equipment manufacturer to potentially leverage the type of crop being handled or geographic region being farmed in to provide further best practices as would be relevant.

Enhance Servicing and Record Keeping

Equipment manufacturers can also distinguish themselves from their competition by improving the service experience of their equipment. When an AR enabled app is focused on a part of the equipment that requires regular maintenance, the frequency and procedure for service can be easily conveyed to the operator.

As an example, an operator focusing the app on a gear or chain that requires regular lubrication could be presented with not only the method of lubrication but also the type of lubrication, the frequency of lubrication needed, and the last recorded servicing of that part. It may also be able to instruct the operator on signs indicating the need for more comprehensive servicing. Additionally, as the user is already engaged with the app, a record of the maintenance operation could be logged as part of the maintenance procedure making what is usually a tedious task a little easier to manage.

A sprayer manufacturer might publish an app that could be used to identify a type of weed. The app using either a fully automated method or a human assisted technique could recognize the weed and recommend the type of herbicide to use. Further, it might provide instructions for the correct sub-mixtures to use, the ratios needed and the correct order of chemicals to mix to prevent coagulation of the herbicide preventing expensive repairs within the sprayer. The app may be further enhanced to use the captured information to log and track both the use of the herbicide and if and when the compositional chemicals need to be ordered.

Future of AR

The future of Augmented Reality isn’t restricted to the smartphone or tablet and is moving to AR dedicated devices like the Microsoft HoloLens. The HoloLens, a device now small enough to be of comparable size to a SCUBA mask, is placed over a user’s head, and projects an overlay of information over what the user is seeing.

Although the form factor of the eye covering device needs a few more levels of iteration before it really becomes useful for practical application, it promises more integrated uses for AR. One could envision being fed useful, up to the minute information, that could enhance their ability to perform their work through such a device. For instance, an overlay of a new trench that an operator of an excavator can see projected over the area they need to dig. Useful information about the task, along with live telematic information to the operator can also be displayed to the user.

AR at JCA Electronics

JCA Electronics has started working with innovative equipment manufacturers to create AR applications on touch devices. We have focused on providing the right type of information in a complementary way to improve both our customers and their end users experience. And what we have learnt is that AR based apps can provide a compelling competitive advantage to those equipment manufacturers willing to move into this field.

We’ll be demoing both AR enable touch applications and prototype designs of the Microsoft HoloLens at our Booth at Farm Progress in Boone, IA (Aug.28-30). Make sure to stop in at JCAs booth VIT9702.