Streamlining your annual service

Do the mechanics at your local garage mutter conspiratorially when you take your car in for its annual service? Well, from now on they may not be muttering the words ‘one born every minute’, but simply talking to a hands-free, wearable computer.

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University and Robert Bosch Corporation in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in collaboration with scientists at Robert Bosch GmbH in Germany, are unveiling ‘Speech-Controlled Wearable Computers for Automotive Shop Workers’ at the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) 2001 World Congress.

The team is developing a small, speech-controlled mobile computer that car mechanics can wear while inspecting vehicles and making repairs.

Vehicle inspections and maintenance are often conducted using time-consuming paper forms. When the work is completed, the technician then often enters the data into a computer for further processing.

‘Wearable computers offer great advantages for workers in many industries, including automotive,’ said Christian Burgy of Carnegie Mellon University. ‘These devices eliminate paper-based data collection, saving workers time and helping to increase the quality of the job performed.’

For example, instead of carrying manuals or approaching a PC to look up information or order parts, a mechanic using the wearable computer may be able to access inspection data and control measurement devices.

To develop the prototype device, researchers interviewed car mechanics to evaluate worker needs. ‘We did not want to overwhelm them with technology too complicated to use,’ said Markus Klausner of the Robert Bosch Corporation. ‘The idea is to simplify their jobs.’

Several prototypes have been developed based on user feedback, and the researchers are currently trying to perfect the hardware and software for optimal functionality.