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Here’s why BMW mechanics now carry smartglasses in their tool chest

Image used with permission by copyright holder

BMW mechanics are going high-tech. The Munich, Germany-based automaker announced it has added RealWear HMT-1 smartglasses to the tool kit its technicians use in order to reduce the time a car spends in the shop, and make its service centers more efficient. The technology will be fully implemented at all participating dealerships by the end of June 2019.

No, the mechanics at your nearest BMW dealership aren’t shooting aliens in outer space between oil changes. Ubimax’s augmented reality technology lets them access service manuals on the spot without needing to open a thick repair volume or spend time booting up a laptop — which also means no more greasy keyboards. For example, a technician changing the water pump on a 3 Series can access a diagram showing how to install the part using the smartglasses. BMW noted the software is intuitive and user-friendly.

The technology also puts mechanics in contact with engineers if they need to diagnose or solve a more enigmatic problem, which isn’t unheard of considering how advanced new cars are. Using the smartglasses, a mechanic can remotely work with a member of the engineering team via a hands-free video link. The engineer sees what the mechanic see, and can send an image, a diagram, or voice instructions directly to the smartglasses.

Voice recognition lets mechanics open files while keeping both hands in the engine bay. BMW’s research showed that using augmented reality technology is more efficient than sending an email, waiting for a reply, or receiving instructions over the phone. That’s why all 347 BMW centers in the United States and select Mini dealers will use smartglasses by the end of 2019.

The technology is costly to implement, but BMW explained its dealers are doing it in the name of customer satisfaction. Solving problems more quickly means cars spend less time in the shop, and more time on the road.

BMW isn’t the first high-end German brand to introduce smartglasses into its workshops. In 2018, Porsche dealerships across the United States began using augmented reality technology to diagnose and repair cars that come in for service. Like BMW, Porsche explained the technology saves its service centers a tremendous amount of time, especially when technicians need to fix complex issues.

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Ronan Glon
Ronan Glon is an American automotive and tech journalist based in southern France. As a long-time contributor to Digital…
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