During its brief time in the mainstream spotlight, augmented reality (AR) technology has been used to measure objects, disappoint crowdfunding audiences, and catch Pokémon.
However, its most recent iteration (by Amazon) might have you rethinking your last trip to the used auto parts store (and your aforementioned disappointment in AR).
While Amazon has explored augmented reality applications in the past, the uses have generally revolved around projecting things such as furniture representations into rooms.
In theory, a user could select a specific model of furniture and, using their smartphone, see what the room would look like with the piece of furniture in it. Their new augmented reality service plans to extend that same technology to encompass a smaller-scale setting: automobile parts.
The app is still in its early stages of development, and they’ve only recently been granted the patent, but the concept sounds incredibly promising.
To use the app itself, a customer would point their smartphone’s camera at the vehicle’s engine. The app would feasibly start by identifying your vehicle’s model information and displaying different modular points, after which point you would be able to select a type of part and project it onto your vehicle to see how it fits.
Once you found the correct part for your vehicle, Amazon could order the part via the standard Amazon app.
In an age where the combination of YouTube and your dad’s toolbox provides an attractive alternative to paying the local mechanic, having the option to diagnose accurately your problem and have a reliable solution appear is a huge potential step forward (IF and only if you are the type of person that isn’t intimidated by a car engine).
Amazon is used to crushing the competition in traditional fields; however, where automotive augmented reality is concerned, it seems like Amazon may be the first big name to consider. Virtually no companies use augmented reality for in-house repairs, and customer-level AR support is nonexistent, making Amazon the obvious (and only) choice for now.
Augmented reality has been little more than a novelty thus far, and while some of its applications have been more geared toward services than entertainment, arguably none have been essential for more than a limited number of users (even their grocery offering). Amazon’s foray into automotive self-help is a promising step toward mainstream augmented reality which both improves users’ lives and serves a purpose greater than the sum of its parts.
We’ll stick with our trusted mechanics for our nicer cars and feel dubious that Amazon will ever threaten the practice, but for our junkers that just need a new air filter, we’re down for some AR magic.
Our ruling is that this app is pretty cool and could replace auto parts competitors, and perhaps even be used by tinkerers, but it’s unlikely that any amount of AR magic will replace mechanics (I mean, have you had to replace a part in an Audi!? You have to take out the entire engine to get to the transmission, so no thanks).