Audi's AR Car Manual Deciphers Your Dashboard

We are about a month into my wife's breaking in her new Mazda3 -- and the car is breaking her in a bit as well. We still can't figure out how to swap out her iPhone for mine to stream music through Bluetooth. Pushing a button to start a car is still a thrill. “But I can't tell you what half of these buttons do or these lights mean,” she says, pointing at the dashboard and center stack. “It needs labels,” she suggests.

The updated Audi eKurzinfo AR app is not quite enough to make us wish we had gotten an A3, which the app now supports. But I do wish more car manufacturers would try this approach for not only making the manual digital and portable on a mobile device, but tying it to AR routines that turn your car into the index for accessing the info you need. In fact, according to the video description of the app, you can point it at your dashboard and get exactly what my wife is looking for -- an overlay of labels and descriptions of what the buttons and dials actually indicate and do.



If you are an auto-averse guy like me (yeah, you know you are out there; you’re just not talking), popping the hood of the car might be less scary with this app. I am the kind of clueless owner who has to think thrice before refilling windshield wiper fluid, because I really am not sure I am contaminating my oil reservoir. This app offers an overlay map of the engine bay.

In all, there are 300 elements of the Audi A3 this app can recognize to render descriptions or how-to steps. Animated 3D pop-ups illustrate how to do things like refill coolant. The content is cloud-based, so users don’t need tons of data on their device that requires updating. The app was done with longstanding AR platform Metaio, which naturally hopes for a day when car manuals are a thing of the past. 

The eKurzinfo AR app was issued originally for the Audi A1 subcompact in Europe last year and won a 3GSM award. 

When I started covering AR at least five or six years ago, Metaio was one of the early firms that speculated about a day when these sorts of technologies could replace a paper manual with something better, more portable, richer and more accessible. The technology and consumer curiosity is finally catching up. We did get a My Mazda app with the new car. It allows us to record the maintenance schedule and it does have a cute find-my-car geolocation tool. But mostly it is filled with silly promos, a branded magazine, and offers. The roadside assistance tool actually kicks you out to download a separate app.

I appreciate that the auto industry is probably farther down the road on mobile marketing and advertising than it is on mobilizing its post-sale customer relations. But we are getting to the point where user sophistication and expectations are outstripping brand performance. We know what the technology is capable of because we see our devices used in so many smart ways by other categories. 

I think this is the year consumers start looking at their smartphones and ask brands, "why can't your app do that?"

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