Mercedes-Benz USA said Wednesday it has launched Microsoft HoloLens headsets at its 383 dealers across the United States. This allows auto technicians to get remote help in real time from a remote expert, who can see under the hood with the personal technician via a camera on the HoloLens headset. The hope is technology – which also lets the headset wearer see the remote expert, as well as three-dimensional images and annotations such as arrows and round overlays of engine parts with see HoloLens -through display – will help speed up and facilitate vehicle repair.
Mercedes also saw the move, which came after a trial with headsets at 13 U.S. dealers earlier this year, as a way to fix cars during the pandemic without sending specialists to dealers as before. While some data suggests that the market for expanded- and virtual-reality headsets has been temporarily slowed due to the pandemic, tech researcher ABI Research estimates an increase in remote employment among people returning to self-employment may increase demand for AR headsets next year. ABI expects under 2 million AR headsets to be shipped by 2020, but predicts it will reach 3 million by 2021.
Andrew Sanders, a project leader for engineering services at Mercedes, said that usually when a car in the United States needs to be repaired, a car owner will take him to a dealer. If the issue is not obvious or simple to fix, the dealer will contact the company’s specialists in Jacksonville, Florida. If a remote specialist does not solve the problem, one of the company’s field experts will have to travel to the dealer and fix the vehicle in person, he said.
With HoloLens, the technician at a car dealer can work with many remote specialists at the same time, if necessary. For example, in May, Sanders participated in a HoloLens session with some engineers and field specialists trying to visualize the sound of a knocking engine.
“You have all these different people and all these different eyes focused on what the workshop staff really sees,” Sanders said.
Mercedes has previously purchased HoloLens headsets to train its mechanics using 3-D models of vehicles and parts such as brake systems.