Audi’s new augmented reality app is the future of car manuals

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If you can’t tell your car’s dipstick from its gear stick, Audi’s latest app is for you.

The car company has created an augmented reality app for the iPhone that gives Audi owners the lowdown on their cars’ internals, helping them identify buttons and knobs in ways their cars’ boring paper manuals never could.

For a lot of commonly recognized features, the app will be fairly unnecessary, but it’s easy to see how it could come in handy for less obvious under-the-hood  components — like the location of a car’s coolant expansion tank, for example.

Created by German AR company Metaio (which also created Ikea’s new and amazing catalog app), the Audi app is actually a follow-up to a similar one created last year for the 2012 Audi A1.  In addition to some interface improvements, the new app improves on its predecessor by upping the number of identifiable car components fourfold to more than 300.

What’s really notable about the app, however, is just how far its underlying concept will go once heads-up displays (HUD) like Google Glass become commonplace. As we talked about with Epson’s Moverio BT-100, one of the most enticing things about augmented reality is how it can be used to not only identify car parts but also help people fix them.

Once the augmented overlays transition form a smartphone screen to a HUD, it’s going to be a lot easier for car owners to make routine repairs without the need for mechanics. And that’s good news for everyone (except the mechanics).

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