Observing with the Microsoft HoloLens 2 may well facilitate complex repairs

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Picture this: you are a technician working on a complex, oversized vehicle with a unique problem that has not been seen in your workshop, or at least recorded before. Where do you start? The first thing you do is look down and pat your wrist. A menu appears, floating in the air, awaiting your input.

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You tap a cue or two, and there’s a call in the corner of your eye with another expert who says he’s seen this kind of problem before. It sees everything you see and can circle hot spots, guiding you through time-wasting red herrings. A few more knocks in the air and you get the wiring diagram in your line of sight, helping you work on the vehicle with that reference with you all the time.

What was once a long and frustrating affair for customers and technicians has been significantly shortened by sophisticated new technology. It’s no longer science fiction, it’s (augmented) reality.

As cars become more complex, the repair process will also become more advanced. Mercedes-Benz Canada is hoping to be at the forefront when it comes to dealing with complex repairs with a high-tech augmented reality headset that is now in use at each of the brand’s dealerships across the country.

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This futuristic solution consists of two parts: the Microsoft HoloLens 2 headset; and the Microsoft Dynamics 365 Remote Assist conferencing and collaboration system. The HoloLens 2 is a wireless augmented reality headset with four visible light cameras for head tracking; two infrared cameras for eye tracking; a depth sensor; five-channel microphone array; and built-in speakers. Together and in the hands of Mercedes technicians, they form Mercedes-Benz Virtual Remote Support.

The technology was tested in 2019, as a way to solve vehicle repair issues. Typically, when a customer has a confusing problem, it can take a long time to diagnose the problem, let alone get the right parts and apply a permanent solution. Long wait times aren’t what Mercedes-Benz customers signed up for when they bought the brand’s last piece of metal, and delays in getting a car into the hands of an owner could turn off a customer for life.

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How it works

When a car arrives with a rare and unusual problem, Mercedes used to bring specialists to a dealership to check it out. This meant that it could take some time for a car to be viewed, diagnosed and repaired, not to mention the costs and environmental impacts associated with theft across the country.

With this technology, they can collaborate remotely and help with repairs. The local technician puts on the headset and calls his support team, showing them and letting them know the problem in real time. The device can broadcast the technician’s point of view to other specialists and experts, who can speak and hear the technician on site. It’s like a fancy Zoom or Microsoft Teams meeting, except instead of sharing your screen, you share What you see . The helmet can also project vital information such as wiring diagrams and schematics so that the technician can work on the vehicle at the same time.

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“It’s like having the right expert on your shoulder the minute you need it,” said Joseph Lagrasta, shop foreman at Mercedes-Benz Brampton. “Since deploying this technology in July, we’ve been getting cars back to owners – diagnosed, repaired, and ready to go – in a fraction of the time. “

This is the result of a pilot project that began in 2019, with Mercedes-Benz Canada investigating how it might solve these difficult vehicle repairs.

“This is part of a massive digital transformation involving investments in our dealerships,” said Nikhil Ondhia, vice president of customer services, Mercedes-Benz Canada. “Investing in HoloLens and virtual remote assistance is one of them. The product sells a customer the first car, but the service sells the second, third, and fourth.

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While HoloLens may seem like an odd science experiment taking place behind the scenes of the dealership, Ondhia explains that the technology will have a direct impact on after-sales service and customers. His hunch is that the technology will improve service efficiency and turnaround times by up to 30 percent.

“We can’t add service bays to a dealership,” he said. “But with technology like this, we can get cars and customers in and out more quickly, especially in the most difficult situations where people have been waiting days for a flying doctor to come.”

How much are we talking about complexity?

Some of the more skeptical readers may wonder, “Why doesn’t Mercedes just make more reliable vehicles, rather than spend all that money on fancy gadgets?” “

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With the recent trend in building electric vehicles, the HoloLens solution can be a smart step forward. While automakers may be quick to point out that EVs have fewer mechanical components and will be less complicated to repair, they have a ton of code and wiring, requiring a completely different approach to repairs than vehicles. combustion. Going through the wiring diagrams hands-free while working on the vehicle should make it easier for technicians.

Learn and grow

The technology is fairly intuitive – even I was able to initiate menus and calls within minutes of putting on the headset. That’s its beauty, and Ondhia believes it will change perceptions in the service sector. “Shifting the focus of the craft from mechanics to technology will open things up a lot,” he said. It dispels a stereotype about technicians. And sends a signal to those interested in cutting edge technology.

Mercedes-Benz believes that this futuristic technology has applications beyond after-sales service. It will use it for sales training and other places to better equip its dealers to deal with customers, repairs and vehicles. The technology can even reach the consumer, allowing them to look at the vehicle they are building right there in the showroom.

Augmented reality

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We apologize, but this video failed to load.

This is just the latest showcase for augmented reality from Mercedes-Benz. Currently available on the brand’s cars is the Augmented Navigation System, which broadcasts navigation instructions in addition to a video feed from a front camera on the dashboard. Technology leapt from the dashboard to the windshield with an augmented reality head-up display on the new S-Class.

With HoloLens 2, this technology extends beyond the car and after-sales service, in the hopes of improving the experience for owners and technicians.

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