Porsche's Mission E concept car, first shown in 2015, previewed an electric Porsche that will go into production by 2020. (Photo: Porsche.)
Porsche prides itself on its high-tech sports cars. But now it's bringing that passion for the cutting edge to its service departments.
The German automaker announced Tuesday that it is supplying its 189 U.S. dealerships with augmented reality glasses that can help mechanics solve issues that arise on today's increasingly complex automobiles.
With the AR glasses on, a service technician can conference in a Porsche specialist located at the company's U.S. headquarters in Atlanta and be talked through a repair job — the technician can stream live video of the problem area, while the remote support worker can post helpful repair tips in the worker's peripheral vision.
ODG's R-7 is a self-powered AR device that already is a hit with some enterprise applications. (Photo: ODG)
"By solving issues fast, our dealer partners can get their customers back into cars with less disruption," Porsche Cars North America CEO Klaus Kellmer said in a statement.
Called Tech Look Live, the new feature connects Porsche dealerships with dedicated repair technicians at headquarters. Tech Look Live can also be used by the company's roving Field Technical Managers who may be executing repairs on the road.
Porsche says today's cars — now considered rolling computers often with complicated propulsion systems that combine gasoline and battery powered engines — prompted the decision to use AR glasses to help mechanics. The company is working on its first all-electric Tesla competitor, the Mission E sedan.
Video journalists work next to the Porsche 911 GT3 RS car at the BeijingAuto Showon April 25, 2018. (Photo: ROMAN PILIPEY, EPA-EFE)
In addition, Porsche is also trying to win back to its dealership repair centers customers of older cars who currently might service their vehicles with independent mechanics. The infrequent nature of dealership repairs on Porsches that are decades old makes Tech Look Live valuable to a new car mechanic perhaps seeing an older component for the first time.
Porsche says 70% of all the cars made during the company's 70-year history are still on the road. Fixing such older cars at dealerships would represent a significant new source of revenue.
The glasses mechanics will use are ODG R-7 smartglasses, made by San Francisco-based Osterhout Design Group. Unlike virtual reality glasses such as Oculus Rift, which block out the real world, augmented reality glasses such as the R-7s allow wearers to see the real world while other images can be overlaid in the periphery.
Most industry experts expect AR glasses to be a much bigger market than gamer-focused VR, but neither tech application has taken off as was previously predicted. Part of the reason for VR's slow adoption is the lack of non-gamer applications, as well as the sometimes disconcerting nature of blocking out real-world inputs.
Some show cars are pure flights of designer fancy, but Porsche's Mission E Cross Turismo looks nearly ready for production, inside and out. (Photo: Porsche)
Augmented reality also still lacks populist uses cases. But it has slowly gained popularity in business enterprise cases where workers need to keep their hands free to perform a task. Workers on remote oil wells, surgeons and, now, mechanics are good use-cases for AR glasses.
Another big factor in keeping AR in its infancy is price. Glasses such as the R-7 cost in excess of $2,000 a pair.
Porsche's technicians won't be using R-7s for every repair. In fact, the company estimates that of the several hundred repairs each dealership handles every month, only a few particularly complex or unusual repairs will warrant the AR assist.
Porsche dealers began signing up for R-7 glasses last month, and 75 outlets are expected to receive the specs this year with the rest coming on board in 2019.