To forge a link between the virtual and the real world, DaimlerChrysler's researchers have implemented a method this is now ready for series application. Work processes in production are to be simplified and complicated tasks verified more efficiently.
Example: The cockpit accessories plate
As a result of individual customer wishes and a tailor-made choice of equipment - from the engine through the electronic units to the driver's cab - no two trucks are alike in their electrical component configurations. Each cockpit accessories plate, for example, has its very own fuse concept.
To fit the numerous sockets on the accessories plate with the right fuses in various amperages, an assembler is currently provided with a densely printed black-and-white diagram. However, reading the respective amperage symbols on the fuses requires intense concentration and can give rise to errors. This is where the DaimlerChrysler researchers apply their new method: augmented reality sets out to make the technicians' work easier, while at the same time offering rapid and reliable quality control.
A video camera first of all records an image of the accessories plate from above. This is conveyed to a computer, where it is superimposed with the computer-generated virtual image of the component layout plan. On the computer screen, a colored stripe appears at each socket indicating which type of fuse is to be inserted - thus replacing the paper printout. This method of enriching the real image with virtual information is known as augmented reality.
Visualized assembly instructions
Unlike with the paper printout, the assembler only needs to pay attention to the individual color markings and insert the appropriate fuses. Using the camera, he can follow this procedure directly on screen. As soon as a fuse is positioned, it is registered by the computer; the screen image then indicates whether the procedure has been carried out correctly.
Depending on the task at hand and workplace conditions, the augmented images can be shown on flexible monitors, projected onto a wall or transferred to data glasses. Projected 3D graphics, tables, brief texts with assembly instructions, or the presentation of video clips and animations can also facilitate numerous work processes as required.
Tracking in dynamic scenarios
The decisive technology for applying augmented reality in scenarios involving moving objects is a method that provides the image-generating computer with spatial orientation: This is known as tracking. What was straightforward in the case of the stationary accessories plate for the truck cockpit becomes more complicated as soon as objects or observers move. Precise tracking is then necessary for correct projection of the computer-generated information. Orientation markers were previously used in such cases; however, high-precision optical or combined methods are now also used. Augmented reality will support production and maintenance tasks even more extensively in future. Errors can thus be prevented, especially in demanding tasks, and processes be made more efficient and reliable.