When electronic devices refuse to work, you rarely find the solution in the manual. Technicians often face similar problems with industrial machines, and companies end up flying in experts from the manufacturer to get things running again. A new system aims to help manufacturers lend a hand regardless of how far away they are located.
The augmented reality system developed by researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Communication, Information Processing and Ergonomics FKIE in Wachtberg. This allows technicians to record the malfunctioning machine with a camera fixed to the back of their laptop monitor. The computer is mounted on a swivel arm so that the technicians can view the screen while carrying out repairs. An image processing program calculates the camera's position and direction of view and sends this information to the manufacturer over standard telecommunications networks. This enables the experts to view the machine on their monitor from the same perspective as the technicians. They can even use the software to write instructions on specific parts of the machine such as 'Remove this screw'. These instructions then pop up on the technicians' screen on exactly the same part of the machine. And if a technician walks around the machine with the laptop, the image moves accordingly - and the written information stays where it was intended to be, for example hovering over a specific screw. Once the technicians have carried out the experts' instructions, the pop-up information can be deleted by simply clicking on it. The system is based on a chat protocol, which means everyone involved can communicate either through the chat function or by telephone.