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Audi’s latest app puts augmented reality in the spotlight

By Evan Wade / October 2, 2013


By launching the App Store back in 2008, Apple gave smart devices their biggest asset: versatility. For the first time, developers had direct — and officially sanctioned — access to the cameras, touch screens and accelerometers behind the smartphone, and they responded with a bevy of apps that spawned a billion-dollar industry.

The Audi app for iPhone and iPad, otherwise known as eKurzinfo, is a perfect example of iOS’s software diversity. No longer do Audi owners have to thumb through an owner’s manual to see what a status light means or find out what a specific part does. As long as they have an iPhone or iPad with them, they can access the app and all the info that comes with it in a matter of seconds.

Maintenance made easy

A recent Mashable write-up gives a good idea of what the Audi app can do. The iOS augmented reality (AR) capabilities help users learn more about their car, diagnose problems, and make sure mechanics and dealerships aren’t trying to overcharge for repairs and services.

A video posted to Audi’s YouTube channel in August gives us an even better look at the Audi app. By downloading eKurzinfo, Audi owners will be able to discover the functions of their car via their phone or tablet by viewing various parts of the vehicle in real time. In the video, a user aims his phone’s camera at the dash, prompting a small heads-up display to appear that tells him exactly what he’s looking at.

Discovery is just part of the app’s appeal. Maintenance instructions have also leaped from the owner’s manual to the realm of augmented reality. In the same video, a user needing to change coolant in his Audi points an iPad at the car’s engine to receive step-by-step instructions on how to perform the procedure. The app uses large red arrows and other easy-to-follow cues to guide the owner through the process. Again, it’s something no standard user manual could offer, and it’s a huge selling point for tech-savvy buyers.

It’s all about the experience

In 2010, Hyundai offered an iPad user manual for its Equus line, preloaded on a tablet and given to people who bought the car. That was forward-thinking integration, but the company recently dropped its free iPad promotion and relegated the digital instruction manual to the App Store. Hyundai, who has said the manual was never meant as a replacement so much as an enhancement, seems content with the decision, but the cool Audi app shows how Hyundai really dropped the ball by not pushing the user experience further.

Where Hyundai’s software offers users a manual they already have (not to mention pictures of a car they already own), Audi offers a full-on interactive experience. Hyundai’s offering is what a reasonable user might expect from a digital instruction manual. The Audi app — with its AR capabilities, usability and extensive feature set — packs enough wow factor for even the earliest adopters.

It’s easy to see how the Audi app represents what we can expect from mobile software in the future. Consumers will naturally gravitate towards products with helpful apps that replace expensive specialists and bulky manuals. If you’re an automaker, it’s certainly an example worth following.