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Augmented reality, VR offer shops a new training tool

Posted: October 7, 2019

augmented reality

Augmented reality systems let technicians view a layer of information on top of their view of the physical environment.

SAN DIEGO, Calif. – Augmented and virtual reality gives maintenance departments new options for training and may also attract a new generation of technicians.

“Augmented and virtual reality are prime tools to engage and teach tech-savvy younger generations, that ultimately have to find their way into our workplace,” said Kenneth Calhoun, fleet optimization manager for Altec Industries. He was speaking at an education session at the American Trucking Associations’ Management Conference & Exhibition.

But Matt Johnston, of Design Interactive, first explained that augmented and virtual reality are not one and the same. Augmented reality is the overlay of information (think of the yellow first down line on football broadcasts) while virtual reality places you into a different world.

“One is immersive,” he explained. “The other keeps you where you are and gives you that virtual information as an overlay.”

Both can be used to more effectively train technicians, and some fleets are beginning to take advantage of it. New technologies and thousands of new fault codes are making it more challenging than ever to train technicians. High turnover and an aging demographic add to the challenge.

One fleet had a collection of tires that demonstrated 13 different types of wear. Rather than flying in technicians from other terminals for tire wear training, the fleet used augmented reality and did the training remotely using “virtual tires,” Johnston explained.

The “tires” were distributed electronically. “I just have to click a button and make it available to every single technician across the workforce instantaneously,” said the University of Waterloo graduate.

Suppliers are also tapping into the potential of augmented and virtual reality to train customers’ technicians on how to service and repair parts. And those early adopters are finding this new form of training is more effective.

Johnston’s Design Interactive built a five-minute lesson on how to calibrate a collision avoidance system radar and then put a team of mechanics through it.

“None had done it before,” he said. “After they were instructed using this software, they were told to calibrate a radar sensor on a second vehicle. What we got was 100% compliance. They did exactly what they were supposed to do the first time on the second vehicle – they didn’t make any errors and they didn’t have any experience doing that.”

Following the test, 90% of the technicians who took part said they would recommend augmented reality for training.

Johnston said young people today, including his son, are already using augmented and virtual reality gaming systems.

“He’s going to expect this technology he plays with every day is going to be something he potentially uses in the workplace,” he said of his young son.

Currently, Design Interactive is working with the ATA’s Technology & Maintenance Council to develop an augmented reality game around the group’s SuperTech competition.

“Kids will be able to get it through the app stores and hopefully it will inspire them to consider this industry,” Johnston said.

The Arkansas Trucking Association is bringing the message directly to the younger generation, and has funded a mobile 53-foot workshop that showcases the opportunities in the industry using virtual reality workstations.

“It’s an incredibly impressive exhibit,” said Calhoun. “It’s booked well into 2020.”

He noted South Carolina has also secured funding to built a similar workshop.

One of the stations in the workshop allows visitors to lay a weld, virtually, using a simulator. They are scored on the quality of the weld.

“Those who were outscored were right back in line to redo it,” Calhoun said. This “gamification” of training makes it more fun for students. An pp built by demonstrates how to assemble an air disc brake. Points are deducted if it takes too long, or help is requested.

Johnston said augmented and virtual reality systems are already available today, though not widely used in trucking.

“Most of it is already in the market,” he said.


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