An augmented perspective

From the March 2019 issue.

Emerging technologies are changing how original equipment manufacturers and the global supply chain operate. One megatrend in particular is doing more than just providing a composite view of the world, it is superimposing a paradigm shift that is most welcome.

Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) demonstrations were a standout attraction at the 2018 IAA Commercial Vehicles Show in Hanover, Germany. While, the novelty of immersing yourself in digital surroundings can be entertaining, the technology can also be applied to functional, educational applications, which is something that German trailer builder, Schmitz Cargobull, has capitalised on in a big way.

Schmitz Cargobull is developing a series of training tools for its engineers and dealer network. On show at IAA was a reefer diagnostic tutorial where the subject enters an immersive VR environment to perform basic tasks on a refrigeration unit. The VR program provided a handy checklist and offered tips to assist the user with performing basic instructions from picking up tools to opening doors. Attention to detail was immaculate and by working in a virtual environment, the user is assured of their safety.

Following the VR reefer tutorial, there was also a live demonstration of Augmented Reality (AR) via a mobile phone app for the purposes of helping technicians onsite via a remote technical support team. The app can help point the tech in the right direction, with visual cues and additional information. It is also possible to review manuals and documentation with the assistance of a trained third party to walk a tech through a number of tasks.

Other manufacturers have also used AR and VR to assist vehicle operators with their day-to-day freight tasks. Materials handling specialist, Hiab, has been utilising its HiVision system for crane operators since 2016. Last year, the control system was approved by the European inspection company, Dekra, and certified by TÜV Rheinland, a leading international provider of technical services.

Through the use of 3d VR goggles and cameras, HiVision simulates what it is like for a crane operator to sit in a truck cabin. What makes this technology a boon for safety and efficiency is its capability to simulate in real-time the surroundings of the heavy vehicle, without the equipment obscuring visibility. Hiab was the first in the industry to present a new, innovative solution for operating forestry cranes that improved safety, ergonomics and productivity.

“For us, the development of HiVision was all about improving the work environment and safety of operators,” said Hiab Product Manager HiVision – Forestry and Recycling Cranes, Toni Ahvenlampi. “In addition, we sought productivity benefits that would bring financial savings to our customers' businesses. This solution was radical, but we believed in it because it provided an opportunity to move the operator from a risk environment to the safest and most comfortable work environment during loading, which is the truck cabin. Besides, the weight savings offered the chance to add more payload.”

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