Tablet-based electronic car owner’s manuals are par for the course these days, but Hyundai’s taking it a step further, announcing this week that it’ll be launching an augmented reality (AR) manual later this year. The app lets you point your tablet at different parts of the car — 45 different parts, to be exact — at which point 2D and 3D overlays on the display will identify what goes where. At launch, the app will include information and overlays for the air filter, engine oil, and brake fluid, along with a host of in-car features like dynamic cruise and Bluetooth phone pairing. A selection of videos and guides will also be available in the app alongside the AR overlays.
As wild as this seems, it’s actually not the first time an automaker has taken a serious look at AR: Ferrari recently debuted an AR app for the showroom, but Hyundai claims that incorporating the technology into the owner’s manual is a first among “mainstream” car companies. (Audi has done some work with AR, too.) The age of the thick, daunting set of paperback manuals may be drawing to a close in the next few years: some companies have even started loading manuals right into the infotainment system — BMW, for instance — and the spiraling complexity of in-car tech makes reading a physical manual no more palatable for a car than it is for any other gadget.
Cars are really complex these days. Even simple vehicle-related tasks can be can be difficult if you’re not car-savvy and you need to follow the instructions in the ever-growing owner’s manual.
To make life easier for its owners, Hyundai has built an augmented reality app called the Virtual Guide. It allows owners to use their phones to get more familiar with their cars and learn how to perform basic maintenance. I saw a demo of the app from Hyundai at CES and it works as advertised.
You can use the app to get an augmented reality view of the engine compartment or interior of the car, with floating digital dots illustrating different points of interest like the windshield washer bottle or the location of the air filter. Tap one of the dots and you can get an illustrated, step-by-step walkthrough of the related maintenance item or, if you’re inside the vehicle you can get a tutorial in how to use different functions of the car like pairing a phone with Bluetooth.
It’s a nice alternative to the owner’s manual from Hyundai and could help owners perform basic tasks without needing to delve into a multi-hundred page paper manual. It will be available in the next month or two for the 2015 and the 2016 Hyundai Sonata and will come to the rest of the Hyundai range later on.